Masterchef S03 ep1 : George Briffard, Restaurant George V, [Paris]
Interview with George Briffard
Who has doubts about the choice of Eric Briffard to command the kitchen of the Four Seasons Hôtel George V---the perfect embodiment of French luxury? Eric's quest for perfection is known to all gourmets. His brilliance, technique and expertise are owed to seven years of touring France and to Joël Robuchon, whose refinement and delicate touch has brought a new standard to presentations. Briffard, the grandson of small farmers who baked their own bread and produced their own nut oil, is at the helm of the largest kitchen team in Europe: 115 cooks, 7 apprentices, 15 sous-chefs and 13 sommeliers---this is quite impressive. Aside from 50 customers in the restaurant , he also oversees room service for 90 to 120 people and the gallery with 200 clients. Seventeen- and eighteen-hour days in the kitchen are not uncommon; six days out of seven, he comes in first and leaves last. His approach consists in getting the best produce in the region, and preparing it with taste and elegance. Try the fresh crab meat or the appetizer of abalone from the Brittany coast with seaweed butter, watercress fondant and hen broth flavored with lemongrass. The course of Normandy scallops with celeriac-black truffle mousseline and green apple rémoulade is a real lesson in freshness and flavors. His saddle of lamb with piment d’Espelette will not dissapoint. Desserts, such as the Mont Blanc Georges V with Mandarin sherbet, are also exceptional.
The restaurant FIve is the gastronomic restaurant from the Four Season Hotel George V in Paris
where I try to bring my vision, my sensibility, my culinary style.
My culinary vision? Today we want to make at the V, a french table with beautiful french
produce, french wines, we want to continue the tradition of French art de vivre but which is
able to change with the times.
Why did I choose cooking? I was born in Burgundy, I fell into the pots at a very young age, my
grand parents were farmers, I was raised with good produce from the farm, we had lots of
traditional feasts, for the sun solstice, the walnuts feast, the pig feast, we had all these rituals
from the country where the whole year is marked by the seasons and the seasonal produce, we
only ate our own produce. These products were very wholesome, no products like you find in
supermarkets where you only find tins, we only knew raw products, the milk was drunk from
the cow utter, we drank it still warm, we are used to raw eggs, we were killing a pig twice a year
for the St Pig feast, I was stirring the blood. At the age of 6, 7and 8 I started cooking, preparing
caramels with the skin of the milk. That was for me the first signs unconsciously which helped
me to choose. And at the age of 12 and 14, I knew, not 14 because I started at 14, but at 12, I
knew I will become a cook.
I was truly amazed to see how my grandparents were giving so much importance to the table,
all the family events were celebrated around the table. These humble people would bring out
the beautiful wedding plates, the silver cutlery that was tucked away in felt. I was marked by
this ritual of the beautiful table, were you bring out the beautiful linen. All year goes by with
the seasonality of the traditional dishes, for the end of the year celebrations, we used to cook
big patés in the baker's oven, enormous patés! The truth is, that I saw in the kitchen and on the
table a certain richness, prestige, that really made me decide to become a cook, that was the
trigger for me.
I think that his cuisine is really like the journey of a man's life, like a writer or a musician
translates his emotions of his life events. I think in the cuisine it is a bit like that also. I am trying
to do a cuisine that is like me, I know it is a bit complicated! I am not trying to fit into a fashion,
a style, Ferran Adria who is a genius, I follow my own journey. I am a peasant from burgundy,
who has his own journey. I came to Paris at the age of 18, was trained in traditional french
cuisine, that is how I became "meilleur ouvrier de france". So I think I can do French classical
cuisine and then came a turning point, I worked in Japan, that opened my eyes to a different
style of cuisine and allowed me to give a more feminine, refined side to my cuisine. I was used
to a very franc generous rich cuisine from Burgundy then a more complicated but as rich French
Escoffier style of cooking . In Japan I was confronted with a more jansenist (sparten?), pure, zen
style in which each ingredient is there for itself, that was for me real eye opener that really
influenced my style. Today in my cuisine on my menu you can find all sort of dishes, some very
opulent like Le Pithiviers de chasse?, a really big dish that has my signature, it is my dish and
also a lamb shoulder, rich dishes that you can devour between friends, dishes for mates real
french style. Then to give a balance to the menu some dishes with more delicate flavors, more
raw ingredients. This is not to follow, in my case, a japanese trend but I lived in Japan 22 years
ago and this is what I brought back intellectually and philosophically. And, what I am doing is a
mix of all this and it works well as today they are all sorts of appetites and I like the idea that
each person can find in the menu of my restaurant something that will suit them. And, when
you have a very diverse clientele like in hotels it is important to cater to everybody.
There are different approaches, it is not always the same approach. You can of course be
tempted by a product, it is in season or it is a product that I never saw on offer before, of such
quality. Like this wild pig or this organic pig from the Larzac mountains that I discovered
recently. It first starts with a product you like, then I like to prepare it to bring out the best of
this product, in a manner I would like to eat it myself.
It is more moments of sensation. For example, I was in Burgandy in front of the ocean with
huge wave crashing on the rocks. I could feel their strength and I thought that it would be
fantastic to be able to translate my feelings in a dish. That’s where I did 20 years ago the the
“Marinière au coquillages with fettucini pasta”and that’s when I created the froth. I found out
a technical way to recreate a white forth. I took some shells, cooked them then I added
langoustine, clams, St Jacques, I mixed them with some homemade fresh pasta with seaweeds
and I covered the whole dish with froth. The first sensation you have when eating is lightness.
An anecdote: When I was a Chef in Japan at the age of 28, I was lucky enough to live an
extraordinary experience but I left because I thought I was too young to be a Chef and thought I
did not have enough experience. I came back to France and work with Joel Robuchon and I
remember for my first day seeing a plate with just a green salad, a lamb shop and a mashed
potatoe and I thought to myself "Gosh I left Japan to see that! A salad, a lamb shop and
mashed potatoes!" But I had not tried it yet . When I tried the salad, the mashed potatoes and
the lamb ,then I realized that I had everything to learn.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: George Briffard, Restaurant George V, [Paris]