Antoinette Bruno: Why did you start cooking?
Pascal Barbot: I love to cook and wanted to be a chef since I was 7 years old. I watched my parents cook for the family but no one worked in the restaurant business.
AB: How long did you work with Chef Alain Passard at L’Arpege?
PB: I worked with him for 5 years, from 1993-1998. He taught me to respect product. Cooking a food as simple as a carrot is so important. When preparation is concerned, there is no difference between that and cooking an expensive product.
AB: Are there any secret ingredients you like to use?
PB: I love citrus; it’s impossible for me to cook without it. There are so many different kinds from all over the world.
AB: What is your most indispensable kitchen tool?
PB: The mortar and pestle. I brought it back from Thailand and I love to make my curry paste with it.
AB: Is there a new culinary technique that you have created?
PB: I traveled to Asia and tasted chilies that were very different and created a burning sensation in your mouth. I infuse syrup with these chilies, which extracts the rich flavor without the heat, and use it to make a sorbet for example.
AB: What other chefs in Paris and France are some of the most innovative?
PB: Jean Chauvel of Les Magnolias, Jacques Decoret of Jacques Decoret, and Thierry Marx of Château Cordeillan-Bages.
AB: What chefs do you respect in countries abroad?
PB: In Australia, Tetsuya Wakuda and Cheong Liew. In France, Alain Passard, Pierre Gagnier, Michel Bras and Marc Veyrat.
AB: What are your goals and dreams as a chef?
PB: I want to find my own personal style and cook what is in my heart. I don’t want to copy anyone.
AB: What trends do you see emerging in the restaurant and food industry in France?
PB: In France, formality is on the way out, so that it is now possible to have fun in restaurants. Chefs are not worried about silver forks anymore; they want to just cook and have fun.