Masterchef S04 ep3 : Christian Le Squer, Restaurant Le Doyen, [Paris]
Interview with Christian le Squer
Where Barras, Robespierre and even Bonaparte used to have dinner. During the Belle Epoque, one had to be seen there. Today, Ledoyen is a 3 Michelin Star French gastronomic temple. Although this place is historically rich, it was not until the arrival of a genius Breton chef – Christian Le Squer – that Ledoyen enjoys its status as one of France’s temple of haute cuisines; to be more precise, 2002 was the year when Chef Le Squer was awarded Michelin’s highest accolade putting him equal to the other Parisian legends such as Alain Passard, Bernard Pacaud etc.
The Le Doyen restaurant is an institution in Paris. The art of gastronomic
cuisine has always been celebrated here. Since its opening in 1960, the
Ledoyen has been associated with fine cuisine, and is a brilliant place to
experience the lively Parisian life-style. Why? Because we are located in
such a prestigious venue, in the heart of a famous garden, the dining
room is listed as a historical monument. Therefore, we could do nothing
else but serve gastronomic rich-flavoured French cuisine. We have always
favoured French flavours and tastes rather than international ones. It’s
been ten years now since the LeDoyen got its three Michelin stars and it’s
important to mention that it had previously never achieved such acclaim.
I wanted to be a chef from a very early age. I spent a week at sea, on a
ship, as an assistant-cook. I saw the crew eating together and I noticed
that whilst sharing a meal, social differences had been forgotten.
I’ve always loved food, that’s why I attended cookery courses at l’Ecole-
Hôtelière, a catering school. After that, I worked a lot; I had to work hard
to achieve my current status. During that time, I was cultivating my palate
just like perfumers cultivate their sense of smell. I needed time, a lot of
time, to understand what creative cuisine meant. All the jobs I had in
great restaurants forged my character. I had the great opportunity to
grow up at the seaside, in Brittany, where ingredients and flavors are
You know, Brittany is considered to be a very poor region, but in fact it
has plenty of agricultural products, I mean in Breton homes people have
always eaten well.
I’m going to tell you the story about my ‘cupboard’ - my knowledge and
know-how. I really learned a lot about taste working with a number of
different chefs. When I was first taken on as a chef, I was no good
because my ‘cupboard’ was really untidy. When I got my first job as a
chef at thirty, I was no good at all. I had to re-organise all my knowledge,
get everything cleared up and let go of the feelings and accumulation of
tastes I had acquired in order to start creating my own style of cooking.
That’s how, at around thirty years old, during my first job, that I began to
cultivate my palate and especially to associate flavours and tastes which I
appreciated personally. It took me one year , that was in 1995, whilst I
was the chef at the Grand Hotel. For one year I was hopeless. I was a
chef but not a great chef.
When I understood that the customers were looking for creativity, I
understood that they had a great sense of taste, I could create sensation
with my dishes. I got my first star in 1996, I got my second one here in
1998, 1999 I came here. In the year 2000, we kept the second star and in
2002 I got the third star. That’s when I understood that when I let my
feelings do the talking, I had good taste and a great palate.
I created sensations because of my experiences at the Ritz. I have always
worked in the most magnificent establishments in Paris. With this
knowledge I have built my own style of cooking.
I didn’t manage restaurants like Chapelle, or restaurants with grand chefs
who were working there, no, I worked with good chefs, but I am a self-
made chef! I believe I have a lot of character and the necessary
I do this because I am never satisfied. I love life!
When I create a dish, I am never satisfied.
When I sit down here, right here in this place, I cannot make
international-style dishes. International guests visit because they want to
experience French contemporary cuisine. Here, the cuisine is far from
classical. It’s modern with current tastes and flavours. French flavours. I
don’t use many spices but I use first class ingredients like a tailor would
use quality cloth.
Chanel, the famous Chanel suit, is still the Chanel suit. Today it’s still
modern and still fashionable. My French cuisine is contemporary, but I
personally still retain the culinary basics of traditional French cuisine.
7:03 It's Escoffier based but with a personal combination of flavours and
aromas, using great French techniques because French cooks are great
technicians, they know how to mix and combine ingredients.
7:23 A great chef is like a great musician, he must know the basics of
music like I know the basics of cookery. Here you can eat lièvre à la royale
(hare royale) but we also know how to make Japanese Dashi. I travel all
over the world to discover different cuisines.
7:58 I like the combination of high technology and traditional genius. It’s
necessary to understand both, to draw the best taste from a product. I
start every day with two hours of research that may be a candied lemon,
something very simple. We select the product, we try to find an exciting
association of products, the cooking technique, once we have determined
all those elements, the flavours and the style of cooking. I then work on
What is important when we create a dish, is that we must create a menu
with different degrees of taste. All the ingredients have different tastes.
When you take a product coming from the sea, you need to have a lot of
sensitivity and subtlety. When you use a product from the land, you need
a different approach.
Because when you take a product from the sea, the sea gives it to you
and it’s therefore a rare product. You must bring out the best it has to
offer through the products you associate it with. For example, I make a
dish which is milk-based, sea-bass cooked with milk. In my cooking I
always take a main ingredient and associate it with something else, which
will bring out the best in that product. It’s like a bride; it’s the bride who is
beautiful, not the dress. The dress is simply combined with woman to
bring out her beauty.
Creativity in cooking, for me as a Frenchman, is that we are lucky to live in
country where the raw ingredients are fantastic.
I think it is necessary to associate culinary know-how which enhances the
products, because good quality products are very rare, in the same way
as fine cloth is. We mustn’t smother them; because when you consider
crayfish or milk they are two very distinct things. We shouldn’t mix
ingredients unless combination is coherent but the main ingredient must
always come first. Patrons come to eat the main ingredient. It’s like
beautiful cloth, I mean a great crayfish, to be really fresh-tasting you have
to pay attention to the cooking time, the seasoning and combine it with
something ‘sparkling’ which will further enhance the flavour. It’s like a
bunch of flowers.
Also in my cooking, we make one dish, we don’t make dissociated dishes.
Many chefs tend to put too many flavours on the plate, like Tapas,
whereas I create a dish which is the sum of a few ingredients which are
meant to be eaten as one.
It’s the art of eating in the French way. In France we combine the flavours
on a plate. That’s why we say that we, the French, put very few different
flavours in our dishes. We simply combine the main ingredient with
something, three or four different flavours at most but we don’t make
We had a very difficult time about ten years ago when we didn’t take
enough care of our farmers. I think that today people pay great attention
to products coming from small producers, consistency is good, we have
never had such good quality products. Take for example, shellfish-the
abalone shell. A few years ago we couldn’t find them in Brittany anymore,
now we are starting to find them again. Even as far as vegetables are
concerned, we have never had such good vegetables, thanks to all these
small farmers and producers, whether it’s new vegetables or old
vegetables. It ranges from mountain flowers or herbs to small countryside
market gardeners. We eat well. Roots vegetables are again becoming
interesting today. All that gives the customers new tastes which they are
not used to.
The market is becoming a place where people socialize. Eating well will
become a new form of culture in its own right. It’s a question of
education, we see it with wine, we have never had so many good wines
as we have today.
There’s something for everyone, it depends on how open-minded you are.
But we still must feed the planet. Sadly, eating well may become a luxury
reserved for a certain category of people.
A funny moment I will always remember was when I was second chef at
the Ritz. It was time for the first asparagus of the season, and I am
speaking about twenty years ago. Some customers from Qatar came to
eat asparagus, they ate the tail instead of eating the head!
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Christian Le Squer, Restaurant Le Doyen, [Paris]