In the kitchen with France's sole three-star woman chef
AFP - 56 minutes ago
VALENCE, France (AFP) - - From frothy "espumas" whipped up with a siphon to sea bass "meuniere", France's sole Michelin three-star woman chef Anne-Sophie Pic once a month unravels some of her gastronomic secrets.
On the menu for the happy few learners at Scook, her school in southeastern France, are frogs' legs and a poached egg with turmeric espuma, accompanied with onion preserve and nut caramel in a whipped butter and wine sauce.
While the teaching recipes she uses are somewhat simplified versions of those of her nearby Maison Pic gastronomic restaurant, the 39-year-old chef says they are nonetheless difficult to carry out alone in one's kitchen.
"The goal," she told AFP, is to put students "on a track that they can then adapt. You could use some parts of a recipe to make something else."
The eleven apron-clad students, two of them men, keenly ask questions and take notes from the master chef in the ultra-modern kitchen of the school, which opened in April.
But Pic said she gains just as much from the experience.
"An exchange is created and for me it has become vital to pass on snippets" of recipes, said the daughter and granddaughter of bespangled chefs.
Equipped with a knife, she illustrates the finicky art of de-boning frogs' legs.
"Cuisine is a captivating profession, but a chef has to open their mind, you have to know how to delegate," said Pic, mother to a three-year-old boy, adding "if I were always in the kitchen, I would not be as inventive".
Pic is constantly spreading her talents and is set to open another gastronomic restaurant in Lausanne, Switzerland in April, 2009, at the Beau Rivage Palace on the banks of Leman Lake.
"This corresponds to our vision of development," said Pic, who succeeded in retrieving the lost star of her family's gastronomic restaurant by reinventing its cuisine. "We'll have to earn our stripes again. It won't be easy, but it allows us to grow."
A self-taught cook and late-comer to France's haute cuisine scene, Pic has headed up the Maison Pic for more than a decade, revamping the traditional French menu by adding an unusual marriage of flavours.
In 2007, France's Michelin food guide bible brought her status up a notch from two to three stars.
That gave the restaurant three-star distinction for the third generation in a row: it went to Pic's grandfather in 1934 and to her father, Jacques Pic, in 1973, but was lost after he died in 1992.
Fast-forward 16 years, and the students are in awe at the dishes they have prepared with Pic's instruction.
"This is a marvelous experience," said Rene, 62, who loves cooking and treated himself to the 280-euro (350-dollar) course to celebrate his retirement.
"She's a woman who does things the same as us, but with dexterity," he added. "It gives you ideas about colours and mixes and tastes."
"It's an eye-opener," said Paulette, 64, who said that although she is "inventive" in the kitchen, she "never would have dared to mix fish with caramel".
Pic is also looking to make a name for herself in Asia and was the recent star attraction at the luxury Mandarin Oriental hotel in Bangkok, Thailand.
"We are in an exciting time, we regained a third star in 2007, we have opportunities opening up to us," she said, even if she has felt the effects of the economic crisis since September.
"It's very good to keep doing things in the middle of the crisis, because we need to always focus on excellent performance".
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From frothy "espumas" whipped up with a siphon to sea bass "meuniere", France's sole Michelin 3-star woman chef Anne-Sophie Pic once a month unravels some of her gastronomic secrets. The 11 apron-clad students keenly ask questions and take notes from the master chef in the ultra-modern kitchen of Scook, her school in southeastern France, which opened in April.
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