Anne-Sophie Pic on her earliest food memories and Britain’s best produce
What’s your earliest food memory? During my childhood, we lived in an apartment right next to my father’s restaurant [Maison Pic] in Valence. As you walked out you had to go through the kitchens and I can remember the smell of his crayfish gratin coming fresh out of the oven.
Who are your food heroes? First, my father – he taught me how to taste. Michel Bras revolutionised French cuisine. He uses lots of vegetables, which I’m drawn to. I also admire Pierre Gagnaire and Jean-François Piège, who was born in my hometown.
What stands out about where you’re from in France? Valence is close to Lyon and Avignon. We are between butter and olive oil country, which makes it interesting in terms of food. Cooking with seasonal produce is important to me and we have special varieties of apricots, peaches and white asparagus. L’Oiseau sur sa branche in Saoû is my favourite local restaurant. You have restaurants in Paris and Lausanne, any hot tips?
In Paris, try Christian Le Squer at Le Cinq; he has just won his third star. Make sure you take home some of Christophe Michalak and Pierre Hermé’s delicious pastries and cakes. In Lausanne there are some wonderful hotels. It’s not a big city and the standard is high – Lausanne Palace is utterly beautiful. Where have you travelled to recently? I get a lot of ingredients from Corsica. I go several times a year and stay near PortoVecchio. I was recently in Shanghai and I discovered lots about Chinese tea, oolang in particular. I want to go to Japan again.
I’m fascinated by the produce. I’ve been using lots of matcha recently and sometimes I make my own dashi à la Française. What other ingredients are you working with?
I like to use fermented food and I like making perfumed oils and infused butters to add flavour. I also use coffee, chocolate beans and sake. I’m intrigued by the pine buds and white chamomile that I discovered when I was in Switzerland.
Where does your style fit in with traditional French cuisine? In France today you have several cooking trends, from traditional pot-au-feu (beef stew) to very modern. I work hard at creating fantastic sauces. Traditionally they are rather heavy in France, so I’ve tried to develop lighter, more contemporary versions without cream that are more like bouillon or consommé.
What do you cook at the weekends? When I cook at home
I go for very simple dishes made with good produce, like roast chicken and tarragon served with potato mousseline.
How do you find the dining scene in the UK? Incredible. There’s so much choice. I’m learning a lot about British produce and I’m very impressed by it. I think the cream in Great Britain is better than in France, but don’t tell anyone back home.
Pic’s new restaurant, La Dame de Pic, is now open in the Four Seasons London at Ten Trinity Square. ladamedepiclondon.co.uk
Clockwise from below: Jean-François Piège; his dining room; gratinated onions at Le Cinq; overlooking Lausanne
Clockwise from left: Pic’s Scottish langoustine; Anne-Sophie; the Louvre in Paris; elegant beetroot and coffee dish at La Dame de Pic; Le Cinq restaurant in Paris