A Chat with Michelin Star Chef Frederic Vardon

chef vardon interview
Image taken from fredericvardon.com

I had the pleasure of having a chat with Michelin star Chef Frederic Vardon.

Raised on a farm in suburban France, Frederic was exposed to the freshest of ingredients at a tender age and there stemmed his love for the kitchen.

His humble upbringing did not deter him from being awarded a Michelin star for his signature restaurant in France, Le 39V.

Humble as he is talented, Chef Vardon does not consider this award a game changer as he continues to insist on the power of hard work and perseverance.

A brief biography of Chef Vardon’s career so far:

After attending the Jean Ferrandi catering school in Paris, Frédéric Vardon completed an apprenticeship with Jean-Pierre Morot-Gaudry, then worked with Alain Dutournier until 1987.

Alain Chapel offered him a job at his Mionnay restaurant. It was his stint at the Mionnay restaurant that turned the young chef a believer in the adage that ‘good cuisine is much more than a good recipe’.

Chef Vardon met Alain Ducasse in Mionnay restaurant, and later went on to join his team. Alain Ducasse introduced Frédéric Vardon to a wealth and variety of true gourmet cuisine, confirming his vocation once and for all.

He rapidly acquired a solid reputation as a top-level corporate chef and spent a considerable amount of time travelling the world, delivering simple, high-quality and authentic dishes in the style drilled into him by his peers.

Over the next 14 years, Chef Vardon built up an impressive repertoire of experiences in some of the world’s finest kitchens. Frédéric Vardon met his current partners, with whom he created CORFOU, in 2008. Almost immediately, an initial project was launched in Gennevilliers, just outside Paris, and the first ZINC restaurant was born.

Further projects followed in rapid succession. In September 2010, after two years of work, the company’s flagship restaurant, the Michelin®-starred Le 39V, settled discreetly into the sixth and final floor of  Haussmann building located at 39 Avenue George V in Paris. In 2011, a ski-season bistro called ZINC DES NEIGES was opened at the highly prestigious Courchevel-1850 mountain resort. And in 2012, a third ZINC Bistro opened in the Opéra district of Paris; one year later, it was accredited with a Bib Gourmand from Michelin®. Frédéric Vardon now manages all these establishments with the energy and enthusiasm of a man who truly loves what he does.

Michelin does not explain their choice .This is a game we do not know the rules. We work every day our best. -Chef Frederic Vardon.

You were raised on a farm. This would mean you had access to the freshest of produce from a very tender age! Was this one of your greatest influences on your choice of career?

Yes I come from a family of butchers and charcutiers with grandparents who were farmers. I grew up with my grandparents, who instilled in me passion for the products of the land.

I have been able to bring this same passion for the product to my cooking with a huge amount of respect for those who actually produce it. I spent most of my holidays at my grandparents tasting the simple pleasures of the table.

I never saw my grandmother purchase anything that we would consume at the dining table, all the vegetables came from her garden, the poultry came from the farm, directly onto our plates.

My grandmother lived by great, fresh produce and passed on her passion for cooking to me, a passion driven by love and the spirit of sharing.

What is your earliest memory of being in the kitchen? Was your mother a great cook? What was your favorite dish as a child?

During family lunches at my grand-mother place, we were sharing farm chicken and rice pudding prepared the day before. I enjoyed it until the last spoon.

Of all the dishes you have created, what is your favorite so far?

Cooking is it created? I will say that  my style of cooking is inspired by the French culinary heritage where I look to take traditional recipes but deliver them with a contemporary reinterpretation of the traditional cuisine.

A so-called neoclassical kitchen, a traditional cuisine made gourmet. We should honor what the earth offers and respect those who farm, who sow and harvest because the best quality products are the results of a perfect harmony between Nature and Man.

When creating a new dish, how do you assess what flavors will work together?

All it is, is the seasons, markets and producers who dictate the outline of the menu because we respect the seasonality of all products. Then I consider that we should not add over 3 flavors in each dish to enjoy the flavors of each product. Add love and emotions.

What has been the biggest challenges in opening shop in the UAE? Any hurdles for creating dishes that appeal to multicultural taste-buds?

Finding the best quality products possible any time of the year!

Dubai became a major destination of tourism and business. Thus, the city welcomes a large number of gourmets from all over the world.

Thanks to a favorable business environment and a well-developed logistic network, you can find all the best products in Dubai.

We always make customers enjoy their time in each of my restaurants and make them want to come back! We will cook as we know how, in the way we do it in Paris. It is all about flavorful, quality and sincere tastes, respecting the seasonality of the produce.

In Paris we also have a very cosmopolitan clientele, thanks to our location nearby the Champs Elysées and the Michelin star. French cooking is rich and diversified and allows us to include several recipes of meat, fish, seafood and vegetarian items to our menu. We will have a vast choice to satisfy customers all while respecting the French identity of our establishment.

What are 3 key ingredients your kitchen can never do without?

  1. Piment d’ Espelette
  2. Butter
  3. The eggs

I am a huge fan of reality shows revolving around the kitchen, and get the idea of how stressful it can be! What kind of boss are you in your kitchen? Do you ever turn into a Gordon Ramsay? 🙂 Any tips on kitchen management skills?- And any advice for novice chefs who want to make a career out of cooking?

I unfortunately do not have enough time to watch these shows. It opens perspectives for young people.

I would say you must always cook with your heart and your emotions, and a lot of  love because cooking is all about GIVING; it means preparing a dish to give pleasure to those who will savor it.

I would also add that cooking is an exacting discipline, every day, and it can be a difficult job requiring long hours and a lot of work, but through perseverance, nothing is impossible!

Cooking was above all the main aspect! After that, it takes rigor and a sense of responsibility to lead a team.

A chef must incorporate the following key ingredients to be a chef : his heart, his emotions and his love for the products because cooking is first about giving! And with perseverance, anything is possible!

Interested in trying out some of Chef Vardon’s creations? Chef Vardon has created the menu at La Residence Restaurant & Lounge (at Raffles Dubai). I will be heading there this weekend. Perhaps you’d like to join me?