The toque fits this lady just fine

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

in Shang­hai xujunqian@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

French me­dia hailed it as re­venge served by a princess in the kitchen when, in 2007, Anne So­phie Pic won back the Miche­lin star lost at her cen­tury-old fam­ily restau­rant af­ter her fa­ther, also the chef of the restau­rant, passed away in 1994.

But as the only three-Miche­lin-star fe­male chef in France — and the fourth in his­tory since the in­flu­en­tial “lit­tle red book” of global gas­tron­omy was in­tro­duced in 1990 — the 42-year-old hoped the honor would earn more re­spect for fe­male chefs in the per­pet­u­ally “mus­tached” world of French cui­sine.

“I think women should give this job more seren­ity and sen­si­bil­ity,” says the pe­tite and soft-spo­ken Pic on her first visit to China for the Mas­ters of Food and Wine event held by the Park Hy­att Shang­hai ho­tel.

A chef al­ready fes­tooned with abun­dant awards and ac­knowl­edge­ments, Pic ad­mits “still be­ing a lit­tle bit ner­vous” for her de­but “open kitchen per­for­mance” for the Chi­nese din­ers, al­though tick­ets to her 5,620-yuan­per­five-course din­ner have been sold out weeks ahead.

She made a last-minute change to her month­long pre­pared menu for the “Shang­hai din­ner”, re­plac­ing the orig­i­nal sea bass with the lo­cal sea urchins af­ter tast­ing them the night be­fore at the ho­tel’s restau­rant.

“I am a very anx­ious per­son, but I want to try tomake my kitchen a nice place to work in,” says Pic, who re­mem­bers hear­ing nice men like her fa­ther shout­ing in the kitchen down­stairs dur­ing her childhood, while she stayed at home above.

As much as she wants to make changes to the male­dom­i­nated and per­haps more grumpy French kitchen, when talk­ing about fem­i­nin­ity in cui­sine, Pic tries to blur the dif­fer­ences be­tween male or fe­male chefs.

“It’s not re­ally a mat­ter of gen­der. It’s re­ally hard to say that be­cause I am a woman, my cui­sine is es­pe­cially fem­i­nine. There are also some male chefs mak­ing very fem­i­nine cuisines, or vice versa,” she says. In­stead, she de­scribes her cook­ing style as “closer to na­ture, more vis­ual and sen­si­ble”, re­sem­bling women’s way of think­ing.

“I think most women ba­si­cally and in­stinc­tively cook like a mother, even though it’s pro­fes­sional. For me and many other fe­male chefs I have seen, there is al­ways the kind of mes­sage in mind once in the kitchen that ‘Iam cook­ing for the fam­ily’,” says the mother of a 7-year-old son, al­though she adds that the sense of moth­er­hood has been with her long be­fore she had her son.

“I am al­ways think­ing of my childhood when I am

I think most women ba­si­cally and in­stinc­tively cook like a mother, even though it’s pro­fes­sional. For me and many other fe­male chefs I have seen, there is al­ways the kind of mes­sage in mind once in the kitchen that ‘I am cook­ing for the fam­ily’.”

ANNE SO­PHIE PIC THE ONLY THREE-MICHE­LIN-STAR WOMAN CHEF IN FRANCE

cook­ing, prob­a­bly be­cause that’s the sou­venir from my fa­ther,” says the self-taught chef, who first rolled up her sleeves in her fa­ther’s kitchen at the age of 23. Three months later, her fa­ther died and she was pushed to “the front of the house”.

Cook­ing has been the “real pas­sion” in her life, which “sum­moned” her back to her home­town and the fam­ily restau­rant af­ter she’d been study­ing and worked over­seas for var­i­ous com­pa­nies as a man­age­ment trainee.

Her pas­sions for food and good man­age­ment come to­gether— col­lide re­ally— as her kitchens test the sea­son­ing in ev­ery dish.

“It’s very im­por­tant, like a bal­ance for the cui­sine,” as she puts it, but it gen­er­ates a lot of waste.

A lit­tle plas­tic spoon will be thrown away af­ter ev­ery tast­ing, and ev­ery day about 200 such spoons are used by both Pic and her kitchen team.

She is now run­ning her fam­ily busi­ness La Mai­son Pic, which in­cludes a bou­tique ho­tel, a cook­ing school and a ca­sual bistro, and has opened another Miche­lin­starred restau­rant in Lau­sanne, and her first Paris restau­rant, La Dame de Pic.

Would she like to have a restau­rant in China?

“Why not?” she re­sponds. But there is no timetable for it yet, as there is no hurry.

Af­ter all, it took more than one cen­tury for the cafe started by Pic’s great-grand­mother out­side the town of Saint-Peray in 1889 to be­come a stellar restau­rant.

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