Meet a globetrotting chef
Having left France 24 years ago, working in 14 different countries, Martin Becquart is in command of a considerable questing and globetrotting spirit. The renowned French chef is currently based in Dubai, where he has been working as executive chef at Mövenpick JBR for almost two years. Why did you choose to become a chef?
I am lucky to have been born to a mother who cooks very well. She makes her own bread, duck liver, and terrine, pastries among other things. She used to take my recipe books and prepare the dishes therein. She doesn’t cook professionally, but she can make everything she wants, and at a very high quality, too. She’s the person who first taught me to appreciate taste.
I am from the countryside and seaside and so I had access to fresh eggs and vegetables from the farm, as well as most herbs and fruits from the garden, including apples, pears, red currant, wild strawberries, and raspberries. Eventually, I developed a passion that was formalised when I started studying at a hotel management school in Amiens, France. When I graduated, I worked at Michelin star rated restaurants. Very quickly I decided to go for international experience and travels. It is now 24 years later and I have traveled and worked in 14 countries, from South America, to the Caribbean, USA, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. I have been based in Dubai for almost two years, working at Mövenpick JBR as executive chef.
Did your travels somehow inspire your recipes?
Yes, obviously. As you travel around, you try the local cuisine, and you walk in the markets and discover local products. I am also influenced by the Michelin star chefs I have had the opportunity to organise several week promotions in Hong Kong, Macau, and Vietnam with Paul Bocuse, Regis Marcon, William Frachot, and Michel Portos to name just a few of them.
What is your signature cuisine?
I love Mediterranean cuisine, but I am also Mini a big tropèzienne fan of tarts the South East Asian cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and China. I was born in Laos and grew up in France, and this is mainly why I am attracted to both Mediterranean and Asian cuisines. I feel very close to Asian culture and people.
How impor tant are ingredients to your cuisine?
Very important. Different factors have to be taken into consideration, of course, but there is never a compromise on quality. We cannot prepare good food without quality products. We are chefs, not magicians; if a product is in bad quality, maybe we can improve it, but we cannot transform it altogether. That is why quality is my first criterion.
How about dair y products?
These too are extremely important. Considering that I work with international cuisine, dairy products comprise 70% of the ingredients I use in my recipes; specifically butter and cream.
When we make pastry, for example, we must use premium-quality butter and cream in order to prepare puff pastry, Chantilly cream, foam, and creamy dessert, plus many more.
To you, what is a high-quality cream product?
To me a quality cream is a cream with a good fat content. The origin is also very important; it has to come from France, where high quality is guaranteed, owing to the milk and how the cows are fed.
What does a breakfast cheese platter look like at your hotel?
I serve mainly brie, goat cheese, Gouda, Edam, sliced cheeses, Feta, Emmental, Cheddar. These are the commonly expected cheese types on my breakfast buffet, as I believe most of our guests are not yet prepared for stronger cheese. For brunch and Chef ’s Table we use different cheese families and different quality.
What advice would you give aspiring chefs?
You must work very hard. It’s not as easy as it appears on TV programs, such as Top Chef. To be a good chef, you need anything between a minimum of 12 and 15 years above of practice before reaching sufficient seniority and expertise; this process can’t be rushed through! You keep learning every day in kitchen! The learning process is long and hard, but it is perfectly worthy of the time and effort that goes into it. You need to embrace discipline. This is the key to success.
Scallops with seasonal vegetables, black ink crisp, Noilly Prat foam