I WAS BORN INTO A COOKING FAMILY
Becoming a chef happened naturally. Cooking has always been a big tradition in my family and they have an Italian restaurant so I was born into it. From a baby onwards, I was playing around the kitchen and cooking from a young age. It’s second instinct to me… like breathing and I love it. Even on my days off, I cook for my family many times and what’s really lovely is that my daughter really likes cooking too. Cooking together is amazing. I really enjoy it.
BEING CHALLENGED & EXCITED INSPIRES ME
I love to be inspired, to learn new things and create them. Usually it’s food but I also love building things from scratch, nurturing them and watching them grow. That’s exactly what I did when I helped to re-open Raffles Le Royal Monceau and what I’m beginning to do with Café De La Paix at the Intercontinental Paris Le Grand Hotel. Working with a huge hotel in the center of Paris is a big project. It’s not just about the restaurant; you need to consider room service, the bar, the terrace on the side… It’s crazy but I love new challenges so I have a lot of passion and motivation for the project.
There are also two chefs who have been very important in my life. One is already dead, Alain Chapel, and the other is my ‘second father’ Alain Ducasse. I've worked with him for 20 years and I learned everything from him… so much passion.
THE TRADITION & STORY BEHIND CAFÉ DE LA PAIX
I was already in Paris when they asked me to work here. I’d spent 7 years working at Raffles Le Royal Monceau Hotel, which we re-opened and completely transformed. I’m very proud of that achievement but, by that time, I felt ready for a new challenge so, when I was asked to come to Café De La Paix, I was very excited. They had some amazing ideas for the project that really inspired me and I also love the story of this hotel. It has a great history and that’s so important to me. The hotel opened in 1862 so it’s very old and very nostalgic. It’s typically Parisian and Café De La Paix has become an institute in Paris in its own right. People come from all over the world to eat here and, for me, that’s very special. However, what really persuaded me was the style of things here. I just love it. The hotel has created the perfect balance between a professional atmosphere and and a working 'family.' It makes you want to be here. I also get to work with some very talented chefs and some amazing ingredients so, for me, it’s not about the salary; it’s about feelings.
MY STYLE OF COOKING: SIMPLICITY, SEASONALITY, UNDERSTANDING
I don’t have a set genre of cooking. I have one style: simplicity, seasonality and understanding. When you eat a truffle with me, I want you to enjoy it, taste it and know it’s a truffle. In some restaurants, sometimes you order a dish and you can’t understand what you’re eating… even for me. When I make scallops, I want you to see them; not have the ingredients piled high and hidden. They need to be showcased, the flavours enhanced… The key is to pick good quality ingredients, keep them seasonal and the presentation beautiful but simple. Then, in taste, the dish will speak for itself.
NEW SEASON, NEW FAVOURITE DISH
I don’t have a favourite dish. What I’m very passionate about is seasonality so my menu and personal favourite dishes change throughout the year. It’s what keeps it interesting. There’s so much great food in France; every season has something new to offer. It’s the same in England. At Christmas, I like the chocolate yule log, fois gras, the turkey and the goose. In springtime, I like the asparagus, green vegetables and green peas because that’s their season so it’s when they’re most delicious. Then, in May and June, I like strawberries, tomatoes…
MY ULTIMATE COMFORT FOOD
I make a dish with chicken and veal, cooked in a sauce with fois gras and served with winter vegetables. It’s a great dish to have in wintertime - absolutely delicious! I serve it on the menu here too because it’s something that both the guests and myself really enjoy.
I also love cooking pasta with my daughter - I mean, everybody loves pasta. She’s 14 years old and very passionate about food so we love to cook everything. We recently brought her a new pasta machine and she spends ages there with the fresh flour, the eggs… very relaxing. She’s very happy.
The best way to make pasta is using seasonal produce. Now, it’s a great time to make it with truffle. In summer, I love using basil and tomatoes, especially when they’re ripe with a lot of juice and finished with some Parmesan cheese. Simple, tasty, delicious!
Laurent André is the Executive Chef at Café De La Paix, Paris, which has 2 Michelin stars.