I am a product of my life’s experience, past and present. Starting with lucky coincidences. In the heart of the Allier, in winter, my father's carpentry workshop was freezing cold. So I'd stay with my mother who introduced me to cooking. The closest school to our house was a hotel school. So that's where I went, as a matter of course, to Lycée Abel Boisselier, in Cusset…
Everything else came from the people I have met, in the course of my life. Michel and Pierre Troisgros at their restaurant Maison Troisgros in Roanne, Michel and Jean-Michel Lorrain at La Côte Saint-Jacques in Joigny, Régis Bulot at Moulin de l’Abbaye in Brantôme, Alain Passard at L’Arpège in Paris, Régis Marcon at L’Auberge des Cimes in Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid… Working with them, I learnt discipline, sophistication and a sense of hospitality. So the school of life once more, with its high point being the award of Best Worker of France in 1996. This allowed me to carry on cooking, in my restaurant in Vichy from 1998 and later, from 2008, a few hundred metres down the road, at Maison Decoret. My cuisine aims to be personal and universal at the same time, imaginative yet down-to-earth, such as my medley of destructured hot chestnuts served in a crumpled newspaper cornet. Emotions, scraps of real life, that's the idea…’
What was your most moving culinary experience?
I've experienced two, both very significant. First, my first dinner in a ‘top restaurant’. It belonged to Marc Veyrat, on Lake Annecy, and was in 1998. It was a revelation and such a thrilling experience that I've wanted to repeat it every year. Then, some years later, a meal at El Bulli, Ferran Adrià’s restaurant. A veritable ‘culinary wake-up call’!
Your best piece of advice for amateur chefs
Keep your cooking simple, use choice ingredients, get your cooking times right, season things nicely, take care over how it is served with everything in its proper place.