Laurent Lemal, Prize for the best vegetable dish - Bocuse d’or 2017

Laurent Lemal, Prize for the best vegetable dish - Bocuse d’or 2017

He is the chef of the restaurant Riberach at Belesta and starting two years ago - alongside his non-stop training for the Bocuse d’Or – he has been running his consulting and training company. Meeting with the Prix Bocuse d’Or for the best vegetable dish.

What does your daily routine as a cook consist of?
I am chef of kitchen of Riberach and I’ve been developing my consultancy and training business for 2 years, which lets me travel and meet lots of people. I’ve devoted a large part of the last 18 months to the Bocuse d’Or – which is hardly a holiday! We’ve tested many recipes, thought things over, worked, alternated between good and bad moments… rich in emotions – it seemed both very long and very short – and in the end it went by very quickly.
 
What made you want to participate?
I wanted to know where I stood. In 2015 I participated in the competition Meilleur Ouvrier de France (Best Worker in France); I reached the final and Régis Marcon said to me “Why not the Bocuse d’Or?”. I was extremely surprised! I really didn’t see myself at that level and finally, by giving yourself the means you get there. And then, unlike the MOFs, it takes an enormous amount of work and energy but it doesn’t cost any money; the team France helps us enormously.  
 
Were you already interested in vegetables before the competition?
In fact, for four years I’ve had a dish on the menu called “Végétal Attitude (Vegetable Attitude)” that changes regularly depending on the season. I created it because more and more people eat without gluten, without lactose, vegetarian, or vegan, and I didn’t want to serve them a large plate of side vegetables… With this dish I deal with all the intolerances, and above all it’s a real dish, thought out, constructed, complete – which in the end is just as much cuisine as a meat or fish. 
 
So you were quite happy with the Bocuse d’Or subject?
Yes, reassured at any rate, because it’s something I know how to do today. When the theme came out I said to myself, “That suits me”. What was difficult was making all the different elements in the plate agree together… 10 days from the final – huge stress, and I said, “We change everything – it’s not working!”. It was rather a mad gamble but I was facing a blank page and I really had no choice. It wasn’t a way to break the rules or a provocation: it was just that the idea took incredibly long to come… Then the right idea for the dish came to me: everybody agreed; it was unanimous.
 
What was this famous dish?
It was a variation on the theme of celery, truffle, and cereals, with an onion broth (which we managed to serve hot!). This dish’s wager was to succeed in working on a mono-product – celery – and flavouring it with truffle, and rounding it out with the broth. I don’t know why but broth makes chefs feel secure!
 
Will it be on the menu one day?
Maybe next winter! 
 
April 2017