Pierre Gagnaire – Admonishing Amateurism Iconic Chef Coming to Hong Kong to Launch Truffle Menu

[10/11/11] 

Pierre Gagnaire is one of the world’s most famous chefs and the man behind The Mandarin Oriental’s two-Michelin starred restaurant, Pierre. He’s in Hong Kong from Nov 16-19 to launch his white truffle tasting menu so we caught up with him to talk about a potential food crash and dwindling standards in the kitchen.

 

What’s changed the most in the industry since your career began?

Everything has changed in the last few years. Not only is the position of a cook more respected but it has also become very glamorous which in many ways is rather negative. Our job requires time and silence but now things move too fast and young cooks lack maturity and, as a result, lack professionalism.

 

Chefs now appear on TV, in magazines, in books etc. to an unprecedented degree. Is popular culture over saturated with food and are we reaching a tipping point?

Everything which is excessive generates the opposite reaction to what you expect. That’s why I am concerned and dread that this sudden love of “cuisine” will one day backfire.

 

Do you see other international chefs as direct competitors or is the relationship more subtle than that?

Because we all do the same job there is a competition, of course, but we all work with our own strengths and weaknesses and I can say that there is a great deal of respect between chefs.

 

What was your biggest culinary mistake?

I should have never stayed so long in Saint Etienne (18 years)... I have to admit that I lost a lot of money down there! Despite his restaurant being awarded 3 Michelin Stars, it went bankrupt in 1996.

 

As your career has developed, how has your attitude to taking risks in the kitchen evolved?

Development has to do with instinct. You don’t control it but now the culinary line is clearer, neater and more constructed. I am lucky to be surrounded by people of exceptional quality.

 

Do you know any other country where people are as fanatical about eating out as Hong Kong?

Yes, everywhere in the world people are passionate about food and all the arts of the table. It has become part of our cultural environment. Now when you have a meal in a restaurant it is like going to a concert or to the theatre.

 

Would you ever consider basing yourself in Hong Kong?

Why not? But I’d have to talk to my wife and our children first...

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What are you reading at the moment?

At the moment I am reading “Limonov” by Emmanuel Carrère (he received a prize yesterday) and all the books from John Fante.

What’s your most treasured possession?

Health.

If you could have dinner with anyone throughout history, who would it be and why?

It’s hard to answer this question as there are so many great people. We’d better book the ballroom at The Mandarin Oriental to receive all the people I respect and admire!

If you could pass on one characteristic to your children that you think you have, what would it be?

Labour, respect, honesty and integrity.

What are your favourite things & why:

Chef? Michel Bras for all the virtues I would like to give to my children – he has them all.

Alcoholic drink? Meursault blanc (white wine from Burgundy): the best white wine in the world and the most subtle.

Fashion brand? Hermès: it is the expression of French élégance with a perfect respect of quality as well as great financial results. 

Car? Jaguar E-Type because its lines are classical yet still very original, but as a secret, I love the sound of the word ‘Maserati’.


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