“The food that has always inspired me the most is street food, popular street food, whatever the country. Because it is there that one finds the essence of the tastes and the multiplicity of the food cultures of the world. Originally from Haute-Saône, in Franche-Comté, I grew up in Neurey-lès-la-Demie, a town of 300 inhabitants, and I was introduced to cooking by my grandfather, chef in the house village retreat. It was to him that I once said that I wanted to be a cook.
In the meantime, I worked as a farm clerk with a local peasant, I invented myself as a coturniculturalist [éleveur de cailles]. I had a small farm with which I earned my pocket money. On the advice of my grandfather, I took the butcher’s CAP – which is ironic when you know that today I no longer cook meat.
From cancoillotte potatoes to plantains
I went to do my military service in Martinique, where I was head of the officers’ mess. Used to the cancoillotte potatoes from my native Franche-Comté, I discovered, wide-eyed, spices, plantains, exotic fruits, and how it all grew in the tropics. It was an incredible opening to the world.
When I returned to France, I worked at Potel et Chabot, at Hélène Darroze… I joined the Ducasse group in 2006, as deputy head of the courtyard garden of the Plaza Athénée, then I went to the Spoon from the islands, to Mauritius, where I discovered fresh peanuts, chili, and fish of extraordinary freshness.
Each new destination was for me an opening to new culinary cultures. When Alain Ducasse asked me to launch IDAM, the restaurant of the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, I went to seek inspiration in Lebanon, Morocco, India, to imagine balanced gourmet cuisine, in phase with what the princess (the king’s sister) wanted, very concerned about junk food in her country, and with the fairly strict religious constraints of the country.
Passion for grains and legumes
During this period, I nourished my passion for grains and legumes. In Mumbai, India, I was struck by the quality of the street food, the incredible know-how it brings together. It is a culture that we do not have in France, and that I do not master. I learned much more elsewhere than here: the semolina bread with an old lady in the Maghreb, the yellow pea cake in the street in Mauritius, the use of spices in India… And my cooking is the sum of all these experiences.
I love chickpeas, which can be light and worked in mousse or very meaty, roasted with spices. Depending on the type of vegetable, you have to be a little brutal or very gentle… That’s what fascinates me: finding character in plants. As for the sandwich, universal emblem of street food, it can be made with a baguette or a pancake, the central idea being that it is a complete dish, made with what we have on hand, which is can be taken and eaten with your fingers by putting it everywhere. It’s an approach that I love and practice every day at home. “
Sapid, 54, rue de Paradis, Paris 10e (open end of August).
The Naturaliste website