As a five-year-old experimenting in his mother’s kitchen in the south of France, Stephane Carrade decided he wanted to be a chef.
Four decades and two Michelin stars later, Carrade is famed in France for a spontaneous style of cooking that is simple but sophisticated.
This week, he will showcase signature dishes from La Gueriniere, his restaurant near Bordeaux, at the Sofitel.
In the past, your style has been described as “un-molecular” – can you explain that?
I am not a fan of “molecular” cuisine. Every cuisine is molecular: food comes from molecules. This term “molecular” – sometimes chefs use products that are not really natural to produce some kind of effects, like a certain texture.
So will you place a stress on natural and local products while you’re here?
Well, I’m going to make French cuisine, so I’ll be using French products. But the vegetables are very good here from the markets: ginger and lemongrass, for instance.
What can we expect from your cooking classes?
I want to show a few tips and tricks. Especially slow cooking – people tend to cook everything very fast now. We will use cuttlefish in the class, and for this slow cooking is very important. We will also teach techniques from the south of France.
You’ve worked in Asia before, in Ho Chi Minh City. What did you pick up from Vietnamese cooking?
I learned a lot about how they use vegetables, techniques I was able to bring back and now use daily at my restaurant. They eat fruit with salty things, and raw things with cooked things. For example, papaya salad – the French did not really know it.
We had a lot of sweet and salty mix but the French were not really a fan of this – fruity and salty together is much more appreciated by the French.
You have a reputation for taking an inventive approach to the dining experience. Where does that come from?
When I was working at Chez Ruffet [his restaurant in the town of Pau, in the Pyrenees] I was writing the menu on black stones so the guests had the opportunity to draw something, write a poem, a comment or even a love declaration.
Some slate stones from the ceiling fell down, so I cleaned them to use. Now, in many restaurants in France you can see black stones. A marriage proposal was once written in my
Was the answer yes?
Yes. Though they did divorce – everyone is divorcing in France now, so that is not unusual.
How do you justify the hefty price of haute cuisine?
You can make very good food without expensive products. But people are looking more and more for rare products, so of course there is a price attached to it. For example, talbot fish is better than sea bass, but it’s more expensive.
Do you have any plans to open a restaurant in Asia?
No, but why not? I’m still young!
Dishes by Stephane will be available at Do Forni restaurant at the Sofitel from October 23 to 27. Dinner from $60 per person.
He will also host a cooking class on Sunday for $30 per person.
To contact the reporter on this story: Poppy McPherson at [email protected]