My mother was from Périgord and cooked very delicate food. My parents were millers in the Limousin region and cooked for the farmers who spent the day at the mill, waiting for their flour. I had such strong memories of it that I wanted to make it my profession. I studied agriculture at university and then trained as an apprentice, first with Michel Fernand near Limoges, and later at the Pot au Feu in Asnières with Michel Guérard. My tour of France started with Jean Delaveyne Bougival, and I took over as chef at the Royal Gray in Cannes in 1982. Michel Fernand instilled in me the love of a job well done. Michel Guérard taught me a new way of cooking. Jean Delaveyne gave me rigour and enthusiasm. Roger Vergé helped me to discover the cooking of the Mediterranean and a sense of celebration. Louis Outhier taught me how to cook delicately with a touch of the exotic. Gaston Lenôtre gave me a taste for sweet things. At the age of 40, I decided I wanted to open my own restaurant to express what my teachers had taught me. After five years of research, I decided to buy an old Provencal farmhouse in grounds dotted with ancient olive trees just like the Colombe d'Or in St Paul, which expresses the art of living on the Côte d'Azur. My cuisine tries to be light, creative, festive, colourful and healthy.
The aroma of lemon zest imparts freshness, fragrance and exoticism, and brings out the precision of the flavors produced by these varieties. Lemon becomes essential for light cuisine and enhances all of our desserts here on the Riviera. All of my juices and sauces get a few drops of lemon – it works as a flavor enhancer and facilitates digestion. For example, the best vinaigrette is made from lemon olive oil.
François Mazet, a former racecar driver and a famous grower of Menton lemons, was the first to introduce me to freshly picked lemons, with their entrancing aromas. I had never experienced the marvelous odor of such a fresh lemon. Its delicate taste and delectable tartness made my taste buds tingle. Later I started growing lemons myself in my garden, where I now have more than 70 citrus varieties, including 10 kinds of lemons.