Masterchef S01 ep11: Eric Chavot, Chavot Restaurant, [London]
Interview with Eric Chavot
Kaufmann was a mess. You had to guess everything, I'd ask 'Chef what is the maison plus?' And he would answer ' I'll tell you later!' That was at 9 o'clock. Later at half past 12 when the first guest arrives, he would say 'Get me this, get me that'. It was kind of a game, like cat and mouse. By the time I got to Raymond Blanc, it was like a dream. You open a cardfile and you have the recipe.
KM: What is the Capital?
It is cooking, it permits me to do what I want!
KM: And there is only 32 seats so it is a very small restaurant
32 to 40 depending on the size
KM: Why are you doing this?
The whole idea was to travel the world, through catering.
KM: That was in France?
Yes in France.
KM: Where in the South of France?
South west of France near Bordeaux, so it was a good start in a town called
Arcasone near the seaside - foie gras and oysters - that is a pretty good start
The ideas was to go to Cooking College but my English was so poorly I
became an apprentice and the first thing my chef said at the time was "You
are going to be with me for two years, you are either going to be a chef for the
rest of your life or you are going to quit".
I was quitting believe me. After two years I said that is it, so I dropped out for a
couple of months and then a friend of mine said o.k. go work in the place at
Arcacone go work for Monsieur Lee. It is the only place I can remember that I
used to want to go to work.
It was a small family run restaurant Madame was heading the front, and the
chef was 58 and had been a chef all his life - you know larger than life - he
used to be the galliard and I used to be the runner between him and his Sous
Chef and we used to do up to 200 covers. It was nothing fancy - chargrilled
lobster - but everything was fresh. I used to go to market twice a week or for
the night come back and the van was loaded. It was still very old school.
You had to use the chopping board and the knives. For me coming from a
small village where I wanted to quit , I suddenly meet this guy and he was
happy doing what he was doing.
And I get a phone call from my old chef saying, there is a job in London - O.K.
KM: So when was this?
KM: Where did you come
I went to the White's Hotel and did 9 months down there and then I went to
work for Mon. Pierre Kaufmann.
I was 19 and never worked in a Michelin starred restaurant in my life and then
it was my turn at the interview, and he asks me "Why do you want to be a chef
for?" And I am like what-the-f…?....O.K. you can start on Monday - and that
was it and so I start on the Monday and from working 8 hours a day I worked
18 hours on my first shift!
KM: Yeh but why did you subject yourself why didn’t you just quit?
Why because the guy was putting himself through it as well and that was it,
because he was cooking - you know the chef he is a bit of a bear - it is like
love and hate, it is like a marriage you love it you hate it, you know for better or
I worked for him for two years and left after two years and went to the Manoir
Le Quatre Saisons
KM: What did you think of Raymond Blanc?
Oh it was fantastic you know. You leave a bear and you go to a dreamer. He is
floating in his own cloud. As a chef you are a builder, he need to come up with
the ideas and you have to put them together and that is how he worked.
With Blanc I learnt discipline , because he was organised. Kaufmann used to
be a mess. You had to guess everything, "Chef what is maison plus?" …" I tell
you later!" That is at 9 o'clock - o.k. 10 o'clock tell you later, 12 o'clock tell you
later: half past 12 first guest, he says go get me this, go get me that, it was
kind of a game, like cat and mouse, it was guessing, so if you do the first 6
months you know him and when you get to Raymond it is like a dream - you've
got a section, you've got photos and recipes - you know we are doing B1A2 - it
is like what? You open the card and you have the recipe and even if you don't
know the recipe you have got all the ingredients listed and you put them in
front of you and then - so that was what it was like.
KM: What was next what was after
What was next, Marco Pierre White…
KM: Oh my God
It was like Oh no!! back to Chaos City but Marco has an eye. He can take
something and make something very special - his own. Kaufmann called and I
went back to him for 2 and half more years and then went to Nico's [Ladenis]
and then when you first open your own place you try to be the four of them.
KM: What was your first restaurant?
Chavot in Charlotte street.
KM: In London
Yeah. It was when Marco was fighting with Gordon, so I went to Charlotte
Street and Marco moved on to Toulouse near the old Flamod site where Mr.
Corianne was and did two more years - I actually put money in there and we
did the place up and we were doing quite well but then my partner just pulled
the plug and just closed me down. So he closed me down in the morning and
they called me here in the afternoon on the same day.
KM: Really when was this when was this
Oh so this is this year
I am like a butterfly you know, a two year life span. I did two years at
Toulouse, two years at Chavots and then I’ve been here two and half years
KM: What is it about what you do which is different to what these guys do?
I cook what I want to eat.
KM: What is the process of creating food for you
When I first started out I came out with, I don't know if you heard about it, but
little rabbit stuffed with squid . That dish has evolved from day 1 - it started
with giraud - when I first started I couldn't afford the saddles, only the leg, so
over the years the dish has evolved to now the saddle and I do something with
the snails - I cook the snail to the maximum. You also should add snail to
garlic, and to parsley so with each kind of parsley and garlic mousse sort of
snail persiad that was served on the garlic cream with some pesto. The pesto
was the green and the garlic cream and the garlic. So we try to break down - I
take a classic dish and rework it .
KM: When did you get your first Michellin Star?
I had the first one in Toulouse and kept it for two years and then kept it at
Chavots for two years and kept it here when I moved here and the second one
within two years.
KM: What is it about the way an Englishman looks at French food compared
to the way a Frenchman looks at French food?
I have got to say that the English have come through, they have evolved you
can see it, but something is still...
OFFICIAL WEBSITE:Eric Chavot, Chavot Restaurant, [london]