In­ter­view, À ta­ble with Pierre Gag­naire

A reg­u­lar vis­i­tor to Bordeaux, the Miche­lin-starred chef is at­tracted by the dy­namism and the many pos­si­bil­i­ties of the city

Bordeaux J'Adore - - Contents - CARO­LINE MATTHEWS

de­spite over half a cen­tury in the Kitchen, 14 restau­rants and 17 miche­lin stars, pierre gag­naire is show­ing no signs of slow­ing down. Chef at the Bernard Ma­grez-owned La Grande Mai­son since 2016, the start­ing point of his ca­reer was an in­tern­ship as a teenager with leg­endary chef Paul Bo­cuse, although his fam­ily’s restau­rant in Saint-eti­enne also pro­vided an ideal train­ing ground. Twice awarded 3 Miche­lin stars, the most re­cent was in 1995 for the restau­rant bear­ing his name at Hô­tel de Balzac in Paris.

Rec­og­nized for in­ven­tive cui­sine which skill­fully com­bines un­likely fla­vors to strik­ing ef­fect, his menus fea­ture high-qual­ity in­gre­di­ents, pre­pared in an as­sort­ment of ways. Late to the idea of ex­port­ing his style of mod­ern French cook­ing, to­day he boasts out­posts in ma­jor Asian cities as well as the gas­tro­nomic hubs of Las Ve­gas and Lon­don. Nine of his Miche­lin stars are shared across

his 6 restau­rants in France, in­clud­ing the 2-star, La Grande Mai­son.

It will soon be 2 years since you be­came chef of La Grande Mai­son. What at­tracted you the project and to work­ing in Bordeaux?

Sim­ply put, I had a very pos­i­tive en­counter with the owner, Bernard Ma­grez. As much as I am an artist, he is a busi­ness man and I greatly ap­pre­ci­ate his ap­proach. I was aware of the his­tory and of what had al­ready been achieved with Joël Robu­chon. I was for­tu­nate enough to be able to put the right team in place; Jean-de­nis Le Bras as ex­ec­u­tive chef and Julien Gardin as restau­rant di­rec­tor, both of whom had pre­vi­ously worked to­gether at my restau­rant at the Man­darin Ori­en­tal in Hong Kong.

At the time, it also seemed that every­one was talk­ing about Bordeaux and its po­ten­tial. It was an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity for me and it felt even more ex­otic than Tokyo and Seoul, where I also work. It’s a city with real per­son­al­ity!

What, for you, are the ad­van­tages of be­ing a chef in this city?

In some of my restau­rants, es­pe­cially in Asia, I am lim­ited to only us­ing lo­cal in­gre­di­ents, such are the dif­fi­cul­ties in bring­ing in pro­duce from abroad. Here there is abun­dance of ex­cel­lent in­gre­di­ents; from wild cèpe mush­rooms to or­ganic veg­eta­bles from the Lan­des or Caviar d’aquitaine and Ar­ca­chon oys­ters.

The Bordeaux gas­tro­nomic scene is also very dy­namic. I re­mem­ber when it was quiet and closed but now it is lively and at­trac­tive to chefs. Léo For­get, an ex-col­league from Pèir in Gordes re­cently opened Mets-mots, which I look for­ward to eat­ing at. All the time, new Miche­lin stars are be­ing awarded to restau­rants in Bordeaux and the sur­round­ing area too.

You come to La Grande Mai­son reg­u­larly. Do you have time to visit Bordeaux?

La Grande Mai­son is in Bordeaux! Some­times peo­ple think dif­fer­ently be­cause the build­ing is not right in the cen­tre. The lo­ca­tion is still in the city, but with the ad­van­tage of calm sur­round­ings. I am here every month or so and try to stay five days. The main rea­son is be­cause I en­joy com­ing! I spend a lot of time in the kitchen dur­ing those vis­its, but also with clients in the restau­rant. It is im­por­tant to feel the am­biance and en­ergy of the house and to bring it alive.

When you have free time, what is an ideal day for you here?

Walk­ing around the city, whether it is a stroll up Cours du Cha­peau-rouge to­wards the opera house, a wan­der around the open-air an­tiques mar­ket at St-michel or a visit to the Gare St Jean, to ad­mire the iron-work and glass rooftop. A meal at Le Petit Com­merce with its ar­ray of fish or the Ar­gen­tinean restau­rant, El Na­cional is al­ways a plea­sure, as is an en­counter with Philippe Etchebest, the chef at Le Qu­a­trième Mur.

Out­side the city, I would like to visit more vineyards, es­pe­cially Château Pape Clé­ment, also owned by Bernard Ma­grez. I en­joy good wine and there are so many to dis­cover! I’m told that the place to be at sunset is atop the Dune du Pi­lat, which cer­tainly sounds like the ideal way to end a day, ad­mir­ing views over the Ar­ca­chon Bay and the paraglid­ers who use the dune as a launch pad.


Pierre Gag­naire in La Grande Mai­son.


La Grande Mai­son de Bernard Ma­grez.

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