Interview: Fabrice Brunet - Head of creative workshops at Lenôtre

Interview: Fabrice Brunet - Head of creative workshops at Lenôtre

This 38-year-old chef from Mayenne has worked at Fouquet's and Taillevent and now runs creative workshops at Lenôtre. He has designed exclusive recipes for Les vergers Boiron vegetable purees: Beetroot Puree and Green Asparagus Puree. He talks about his career and his passion for fresh and simple products.

- You became Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 2011, what does that means to you?
I had dreamed about becoming an MOF when I started my cooking career. Not a day went by without me thinking about it. Somehow, the other competitions I had entered before, and that I really respect, were a way of preparing myself. It was a kind of revenge for me too as I was not a good student as a child.

- In your career, what were the successive contributions of your different mentors, at Fouquet's or at Taillevent?
They taught me two completely different values which I'm proud to uphold today. Alain Solivares, who was trained by Ducasse, taught me the culture of beautiful products that need to be used with tremendous respect. Guy Krenzer taught me how to sublimate the product, make it beautiful, even to add a little artistic touch. Today, I have these two influences in me: I will always respect the product and those who have cultivated it, and I know how to make it attractive.

- What did your move from the world of great cuisine to that of luxury catering at Lenôtre teach you?
That it is possible to prepare a product 24 hours in advance, for example when you have to serve 1000 people with 3-star Michelin quality. Caterers and Lenôtre, in particular, use the same products, the same techniques and the same cooking methods as the great restaurants.

- What is your relationship with vegetables and the way they are prepared?
Vegetables are hugely important in society, as testified by all the growing vegetarian and vegan movements. And they are also important for me. I love to cook and eat them! It is a question of education. They have always been present in my childhood because my parents were farmers in Mayenne, near to Château-Gontier. They raised dairy cows and mainly farmed cereals: oats, wheat and barley. But they also grew potatoes, peas and salads that I would sell at the market in Cran with my grandmother. Nowadays, I have a small vegetable patch at the bottom of my garden, but it is so small that I can only grow herbs. 

- What are your favourite vegetables? How do you work with them?
I love artichoke, salsify. I love celery baked in coarse salt, from which you spoon out the flesh to serve with salted butter. I prepare all vegetables as purees, crisps, as savoury desserts...

- And what are your favourite dishes, those you most enjoy preparing?
I'm obviously the one that does the cooking at home. And I like simplicity. I love duck, especially when raised by my mother. I like it simple, with olives and turnips. I am also very fond of veal blanquette. For dessert, I very often prepare crème caramel, with vanilla but not overcooked, which I serve with meringues with a pinch of salt. It's easy and my wife and children love it. I find this simplicity in Les vergers Boiron purees.

- How have you developed the recipes? What was your approach?
In cuisine, we always try to produce a balanced effect. I therefore wanted to wake up the sweetness of Beetroot Puree with seafood, rich in iodine, and strong-tasting ingredients such as garlic, purple mustard, horseradish. Same thing for Green Asparagus Puree. I searched for a way of offsetting its earthy side so well maintained by Les vergers Boiron by marrying it with seafood (again), shellfish juice, cockle tongues... I even added raw asparagus to make their crunch echo the sweetness of the puree.

- You seem to like the taste of these purees...
Yes, the way the freshness, texture and colour of the vegetable is maintained is impressive. We appreciate the bitter and earthy taste of asparagus, for example, because Les vergers Boiron cook it very lightly and it retains all its organoleptic properties. The same applies to beetroot puree which keeps its sweetness.

- You also spoke of convenience. Do these products help you in your everyday work?
Yes, exactly. Having a ready to use puree is a great timesaver. All restaurants, even gastronomic ones, have time and staff issues. I know all about that. With the Green Asparagus Puree, for example, I can do everything very easily, asparagus Royale, cream or ice-cream… and do not get bogged down with tedious manipulation.