It is always a pleasure to interview a French Master Chef you know personally and enjoy. While visiting London in 1996, Brenda Hill and I took a class at Le Cordon Bleu with French Master Chef Hervé Laurent. That was the beginning of continuing friendship as Hervé seems like a younger brother. We featured Hervé in our first book in 2001 and co-authored a book with him in 2005.
His career continued to blossomed when he went with the Paul Bocuse Institute in Lyon. Chef Laurent’s captivating personality, sense of humour and liveliness are contagious. In 2009 he convinced me to attend Bocuse d’Or opening up a sense of knowledge and skill beyond my experience. I had to return in 2011.
His career in France was as high as one could achieve at the Bocuse Institute and also representing them worldwide on various assignments. So, Chef Laurent did not hesitate to follow his surgeon wife to Latin America when her internship in Lyon was completed. He said, “I knew I could cook anywhere in the world.”
Soon after arriving, he opened the School for Culinary Arts (SCARTS) www.scarts.com. Chef Laurent said, “The need was obviously in Latin America for people to learn and improve their ability to earn a good income for a reasonable investment. I started with a small school and it has grown to have 300 students a year with a one and two year program. I teach French techniques and apply them to local ingredients. Originally, most of my students were from Latin America, now, they come from all over, so I teach in French, Spanish and English. Fortunately, I have been able to place my students in exceptional outlets worldwide, including Michelin or Relais Châteaux as well as other fine establishments.”
Before we share Chef Laurent’s recipe, let me tell you a little more about his background.
CityRoom: How early did you start cooking and know you wanted to keep at it?
Chef Laurent: I started cooking when I was 8 years old. My mother had to work 12 hours a day, coming back home at 7:30 pm, very tired, and I made everything possible to cook for her and my little brother. Every day, I was visiting my godmother, living next to the house, and watching her cooking wonderful traditional French cuisine like jams, sausages, stuffed chicken, and pastries. For Christmas, my aunt visited us preparing marvellous desserts. I wanted to be a pastry chef!
CR: I know you focus on fresh local ingredients, when did your awareness of their benefit start?
CL: My mother and godmother always had a vegetable garden. When I studied in a cooking school, we were in the middle of Nouvelle Cuisine. Paul Bocuse taught me cooking from the market. I have been cooking local and natural products for 30 years.
CR: Do you have a favourite type of food?
CL: Farm vegetables, as I could not eat meat without fresh vegetables. I enjoy duck, pigeon and lamb and I love cooking sauces (French cuisine is famous for that) and pastries.
CR: What are your favourite cooking utensils?
CL: Copper, cast iron, clay and knifes.
CR: Where do you go to eat?
CL: When I am not working, I bring home dishes from my classes. My wife says: “Better food at home, and best service!” In some occasion, we choose real typical food, like pasta done by an Italian Chef or tapas (finger food) done by a Spanish Chef. While travelling we love spending time in Award Winning Restaurants such as Michelin or Relais Châteaux.
CR: I know you have consulted, judged, and taught worldwide. What has been one of your most challenging and rewarding memories?
CL: There are several. The Panamerican Games, with 21,000 meals a day. A few nights we had to cook without electricity and water on the floor. We cooked with gas and grills, in the dark. It was fun!
A lady student told me one day, “You saved my marriage.” She was serious. “Now my husband come back home earlier, we enjoy meals and life.” I like the idea of making people happy!
The most rewarding part of the job is pleasing guests. What a wonderful moment when customers arrive at the restaurant tired, angry, and leave with a smile… remembering the dish and the special atmosphere for a long time.
LOCAL FISH AND VEGETABLES, CREAM OF CAVIAR Serves 10
1 kg (about 2.25 lbs) Local fish (white fish from the sea like cod or from the river like pike)
20 g (slight ¼ teas) Salt
500 ml (about 2 cups) Double cream
1 Bunch Local Herbs
200 ml (about 6 ¾ oz) Double Cream
- – Cut the vegetables in small cubes – only use the green part of the zucchini along with the carrot.
- – Cook the cubes of vegetables in boiling water for 30 seconds – refresh in iced water, then dry on absorbent paper – keep in the fridge – add salt to the boiling water and plunge the cabbage leaves 30 min – keep the same way.
- – Cut the fish in big cubes – keep chilled, along with the broken egg and the cream.
- – In a food processor (the bowl has been placed in the fridge with its knife) blend the fish 30 seconds, then add salt and egg and mix 30 seconds more, gradually add the cream until thick – place the mixture in the fridge.
- – Mix the fish with the cubes of vegetables.
- – Place the plastic wrap on the table – add the cabbage leaf then 2 soup spoons of fish mixture – twist the plastic film to obtain a round shape then cook with a steamer, 15 to 20 min.
- – Prepare the sauce: boil the cream without seasoning.
- – Serve the fish, caviar on top of the sauce, decorate with strips of carrots and zucchini.
Soon we will share another recipe from Hervé that he prepared as our Celebrity Chef of our International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association Conference at Sea on Holland America Line. He always welcomes questions, inquiries and visitors. You can reach him at [email protected]
Freelance travel writer Maralyn D. Hill, The Epicurean Explorer, is President of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association. Maralyn focuses on food, spas, travel, and wine, while still covering meetings, incentives, and corporate assignments.
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