In conversation with César Troisgros
A BRIEF HISTORY IN TIME
The cuisine of Maison Troisgrois, which celebrated 50 years of three-Michelin-stars last year, is known for being focused on its terroir of origin, perfected simplicity to emphasize the excellence of techniques, and the usage of acidic flavors influenced by Hispanic and Latino notes.
Troisgrois family was connected to the invention of the sous vide technique in 1974, which occurred when Chef Pierre Troisgros (grandfather of César Troisgrois and a great friend of Paul Bocus) was looking for a new method to prepare foie gras in a way which preserved the weight (which was considerably lost during traditional cooking).
“We are craftsmen—you have to keep that kind of relation with the job.”
César Troisgros is the fourth generation chef, who turned to the family restaurant after international experience in the US and Europe, and is expected to take over it in the future. He is the type of chef who prefers to stay in the kitchen rather than being in the spotlight of TV or social media.
Local produce and sustainability are some of the key concepts in César Troisgros’s cooking style. He also advocates for the preservation of permacultures and traditional vegetable varieties in Auvergne. His cooking, therefore, stands on four pillars: Simplicity, Authenticity, Purity and the family inherited use of Acidity.
After witnessing his live presentation at Chef Alps in Zurich, Switzerland, we sat down with Chef Troisgros for a brief discussion, discovering a clear sense of contemplation and honesty, which also showed in the food and every spoken word. We are excited to see how this legendary gourmet institution will keep moving towards the future of fine dining.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
On marketing and Instagram era
Sometimes chefs step away too often from the kitchen, to do promotions and events. Do you feel it is important to actively promote the restaurant, or to be more in the kitchen?
C.T.: The key is honest marketing—being every day in the hotel (Hotel & Restaurant Maison Troisgrois*) to see every guest and table. Our everyday work and pleasure is to be at the restaurant. We are craftsmen—you have to keep that kind of relation with the job. However, some relevant events can be very important and useful to grow, meet other chefs and journalists.
On the other side, we choose not to show too much inside the kitchen and the work behind the scenes—just enough to get the viewer excited and want to visit. We want to preserve the mystery, showing only the essentials, inviting guests to come to the restaurant to be “part of the family restaurant“ and be pleasantly surprised, instead of seeing everything in their Instagram feeds or on cooking shows.
On food waste
C.T.: It’s a very important topic, behind which is a deep respect for people and the food. We need to “respect the carrot on the same level as we respect a box of caviar.” When a young chef is going to a cooking school, there is a lack of explanation on the meaning of the waste, consequently, they didn’t do much with the peelings (compost, or fine dining food), which means young chefs don’t consider economic and ethical aspects of disposal and the potential applications.
What methods do you implement to cut down the food waste at the restaurants?
C.T.: In our restaurant, peels and vegetable skin become a part of delicious slow-cooked bouillon (for soup/risotto/etc) and sometimes part of fine dining dishes (e.g. La cosa croquante). The issue of food waste, and how you address it, is also about the messages you send with the food, the importance of being responsible, ensuring that what is left behind is good.
“It is important to consider everything when you cook.”
ON FUTURE TRENDS
Being from a legendary house, which innovates and sets the trends, what do you see the future will hold for the industry and the society.
C.T.: Respect for food has to grow. Respect for people, food and waste. Prominent figures in the industry have to be ambassadors and leaders of the organic produce, farming and face the problems related to pesticides. We have the chance to be the leaders and have a voice. But also adapt the restaurant and yourself and take real action.
I am concerned as a chef about the seeds, the pesticides used, and chefs have an important role in these processes, that is our challenge.
Do you see high cuisine without the meat (speaking of meat-substitutes), and as something that could exist in the years to come?
C.T: High cuisine can exist without meat, but there have to be real solutions and good products which work, not just marketing.
Personal highlights: flavors and destinations
C.T.: Last year I enjoyed a lot of Méxican flavors of herbs and freshness, spices; Thai cuisine, with chili, a lot of herbs and always acidity; Japan is very inspiring with its deep respect for flavors, which are elegant and refined and inspiring for minimalism.
Legendary Californian restaurant French Laundry by chef Thomas Keller. It surprises by a well-organized menu, which changes every day. Members of the team have a chance to experiment and improvise with the menu and whatever comes from their next-door garden and cooking techniques. I was impressed to discover that the Californian culture, produces and life is a mix of Mexican, Italian and Asian cultures; the food has no borders, boasting a variety of new ideas and techniques.
…QUESTIONS INSPIRED BY PROUST
Who are favourite heroes/heroines in real life?
C.T.: Musicians, especially guitarists. Matthieu Chedid (M) the French artist—I admire him as a person and a musician.
Your idea of happiness?
C.T.: Being outside. There are many happy times in the day and in life. Being with Fanny—sharing time together, simple pleasures.
If not yourself, who/what would you be?
C.T.: A lion.
Gustatorial thanks Chef Alps and Chef César Troisgros, for the opportunity for this interview.
You can also whiteness the legendary status of the family on the American TV in an episode of the ChefsTable show.
Cover image credit: Félix Ledrou for “Le Temps”.
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