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My grandfather, Raymond Thuilier, who founded the Oustau de Baumanière, asked me if I would come and work with him and take over the restaurant. He was 72 and I was 24. I’d just left the prestigious HEC business school and had no experience of cooking apart from what I’d seen in the kitchen when I was a child. When I arrived at Baumanière, I soon decided I wanted to be in the kitchen and went off to get trained by some of the great chefs of the time: Troisgros, Chapel, Haeberlin, Girardet and Bocuse. I also learnt by working alongside my grandfather. Strikingly, they all had three things in common: respect for their ingredients, rigour and imagination. Some of the most significant moments in my life were my arrival at Baumanière in February 1969 and the death of my grandfather in 1993. My cuisine is traditional and rooted in Provence, where the emphasis is on the quality of the ingredients and the extras aren’t allowed to mask what’s really essential. One of the things I’m most proud of is creating a menu with all the vegetables grown on part of my organic vegetable garden.
Right here in Les Baux de Provence, my grandfather taught me about olive oil and the nuances resulting from its extraction, showing me the difference between the ripe fruity and green fruity flavors. To this day I only use olive oil from the Baux valley, made by three mills: Jean-Marie Cornille, La Cravenco and Castelas.
We use four different AOC Les Baux olive oils. Depending on their intensity and characteristics, I use them to cook fish, to season salads and raw fish, and even in ice creams and desserts.