Masterchef S02 ep13 : Alain Passard, Restaurant L'Arpege, [Paris]
Interview with Alain Passard
What is L'Arpege?
Passard: It is a gift that life has given me and like every gift you receive it has become a part of my
life. Each day I am trying to improve upon it, in the place that I love and where I feel very
comfortable. It is like a partner in my life to me. It is like a love story.
Passard: Even after 30 years of practice in this profession, I still don’t really know why I chose
cooking. Perhaps because it was an easy solution, considering I was living in a village at the time.
My father could have just as easily introduced me to music, or my mother could have taught me
sewing. For them it was easier to find me a job in a kitchen. When you are 14 or 12 or 13 years old,
and you tell your parents you would like to be a couturier it is very difficult in a village to find an
employer. Music is a bit easier, but it was already a very uncertain job at the time, I didn’t know if
I could really make a living from it. With cooking it’s different. It is easier to tell your parents that
you want to become a chef, there were plenty of good restaurants in my village and so it was very
easy to become an apprentice in the region of Britain. One thing I can say for sure though, if
you’re working with one’s hands and doing manual work, were very important for both myself and
my family at the time. My grandmother was a cook and my father was a violin maker so music was
vital in my family as was couture, the flexibility of the fingers, the dexterity of the hands, it was all
very important to my family. We lived to the rhythm of the gesture.
Passard: No, my inspiration doesn’t come from music. It is very difficult for me to express where
the feelings of creativity come from in my art. One thing I am certain about though is that I’m very
inspired by the visual, by what I see around me. For example, the transparency of crystal, the
thread of a tablecloth or even the range of produce one can buy, all help to inspire me. I’m talking
about when the eye looks deeply and really sees. I mentioned the thread of a tablecloth before, but
it could also be the texture of a cauliflower. You know, I often use these examples because I have
experienced them so many times. The colour of a herb, the curve of an eggplant, the translucent
nature of a white onion, the colour of a date or the perfume of cumin, all these things are part of
the sensual journey that is inspiring me. Just earlier I saw downstairs in the cool room the various
ingredients that have arrived here today. In particular, I noticed some vegetables that came from
the bay of the Mountain of St Michel which were quite extraordinary. I saw parsley roots still
caked with fresh earth. I look at all these things and they live with me. So it is from images like
this that I draw my real creativity in cooking.
Passard: I would particularly like to say that my daily exposure to great produce leads me to
believe the great dishes of tomorrow will hardly be touched by the cook’s hand at all. What I mean
is that the method and the process will be stripped back to only the bare essentials, for example, a
cook will make only three gestures to bring out the best of an ingredient. More and more we are
migrating to the style of simplicity, after all, today’s cuisine is like make up on the produce. The
great dishes of tomorrow will be without this make up and this new way of cooking also means
that it will instantly reveal the real talent of the cook and only the very best will survive.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Alain Passard, Restaurant L'Arpedge, [Paris]