It was watching my grandmother prepare a flaky pastry that I decided to become a ‘magician in a cooking house’. A traditional traineeship with Kléber Alix in Mantes taught me what I needed to know about pastry and cuisine. I learnt palace cooking at ‘Le Crillon’ where I became head pastry chef in 1956. At that time Jean Delaveyne, who was older than me, initiated me into the secrets of a rebellious and original cuisine.
In 1965, after working in different placements – the one at Le Lido was exciting – I purchased a bistrot in Asnières, Le Pot-au-Feu, where Paul Bocuse, Pierre and Jean Troisgros, Roger Vergé, Raymond Oliver, Alain Chapel came to support me.
At the end of the 70s, I helped Régine set up her Russian restaurant “Réginskaïa”, and then her Régine’s restaurants in Paris and New York.
Meeting Christine, in 1972, brought me to Les Landes where, from 1974 the idea of cuisine minceur/santé emerged which won me a contract as an international consultant with the Nestlé Group. In 1977, the third star allowed us to embark on the huge adventure of the “Prés d’Eugénie”.
What was your most moving culinary experience?
Tasting in Beijing, in 1978, a sublime lacquered duck, the expression of the Chinese art of roasting, with a precise following of the original recipe in the company of my friends Troisgros, Senderens and Chapel.
The most amusing kitchen incident you ever witnessed?
At the end of the 70s, Marlene Dietrich, in a sheath dress in my tiny kitchen in the Pot-au-Feu, taught me her recipe for roast rib of beef on a bed of coarse salt and mignonette pepper, under the gaze of a curious customer. Who revealed to us that he was a young Michelin inspector!
Your best piece of advice for amateur chefs?
Give free rein to your imagination and make a single stew with meat, poultry, seafood (e.g. braised cheek and sweetbreads of calf to which you can add, at the last moment, shelled prawns, and tagliatelli in an orange butter sauce).
You can prepare it the previous evening and so you can sit down and enjoy the company of your guests, who will be stunned by your expertise in composing dishes.