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From a tiny child, I have always moved to the rhythm of a kitchen. I started hotel management school at Grenoble, and then furthered my training alongside Alain Chapel, Roger Vergé, Frédy Girardet, Michel Guérard, Pierre Wynants, Alice Waters, Michel Bourdin at the Connaught: the perfect career path and also one with a huge amount of variety. The premature death of my uncle Jean, was what brought my wife, Marie-Pierre, and me back to Roanne. We were somewhat happy go lucky but we did manage to win over our customers who had wondered whether the restaurant had a future. In 1996, we opened Le Central, more of a café-grocery. Then, in 2008, we opened La Colline du Colombier, a dream farm in the countryside. My cuisine is minimalist, with no flounces, sometimes playful and I always strive for balance in my respect for flavours. These flavours are precise and bright as I use acidity to effect. And I allow myself absolute freedom when it comes to seasoning.
I also rely on Hervé Mons, who is both a longtime supplier and a friend. Every day he offers us the Auvergne cheeses that he thinks are at their peak ripeness. It only takes a few minutes to deliver them from his cellar near Roanne to our restaurant. Interestingly, his cellar is set up in a former railroad tunnel. I have practically no stock at the restaurant, but I do have an ideal space for storing cheese under proper conditions – Hervé helped me design it.
While I like all Auvergne cheeses as they are, with a good sourdough bread, I do cook them sometimes. For example, I make a composition with scraps of Fourme de Montbrison, quartered pears and crushed hazelnuts, plus a drop of oil. I also like to combine hot creamed corn with little cubes of Comté (the size, one centimeter to a side, is important) and minced celery.