What was your first job in the industry?
My first job in the hospitality industry was working in a pastry shop in Périgueux, France. I was 21, had just finished my apprenticeship and was in charge of making different types of mousses and cakes for the shop to sell.
If you weren’t in the kitchen, what would you be doing?
I would have gone into the gold or mining sectors. I find it really fascinating and I spend my free time bathing in mud and combing the beaches.
Which figure in the industry do you most admire, and why?
Ramón Morato. He is an incredible technician and master of his craft. He is also very humble.
Hatred of animals in the kitchen?
A messy kitchen! I always tidy up as I go along, and so does my team.
What’s the weirdest thing a customer has said to you?
A customer once asked if someone in the kitchen could fix his phone because it had broken while he was at the restaurant. I used our vac-pac machine to hold the screen together so they could take it for repair – that’s a true story.
Summarize your cooking style in one sentence…
I’m a minimalist who always thinks about a well-designed plate.
What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
Once someone complained that they didn’t like the fresh fruit on our fruit platter… It was a strange complaint, but it prompted us to discuss removing our fruit platters from the menu . We found that people were mostly expecting exotic and tropical fruit, or fruit that was out of season at all in the UK.
What kitchen equipment could you not do without?
What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
Greek yogurt with Mexican honey.
A la carte menu or tasting?
Always à la carte — I like to have choice and flexibility.
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in a restaurant?
I had an amazing meal just recently at Nutshell, an Iranian restaurant in Covent Garden.
The most overrated food?
Classy donuts. There’s been this new trend for a while for really crazy donuts, with all of this stuff stuffed in it and piled on top of it. You lose the real taste and texture of the donut. Simplicity is always best.
What is your first culinary memory?
Cabbage soup made by my grandmother. She cooked it for hours and hours – it sounded terrible, but it was warming and comforting and I loved it.
Favorite food and drink pairing (the more obscure, the better)?
An excellent coffee with a slice of almond and frangipane tart.
What do you consider your signature dish?
I created a dessert called Kaizoku that features all of my favorite techniques and flavors. It’s a gluten-free coconut sponge topped with Colombian rum and raisin ice cream, creamy milk chocolate and sesame oil, and a coconut popsicle. Kaizoku roughly translates to “pirate” in Japanese. The name was inspired by the sail-like shape of the dessert – and the rum, of course.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
Read a lot, eat out, and stay focused. Reading is really important and we don’t talk about it enough. You need to understand the history of food and the science behind it, and many great chefs and food techs are also excellent writers.
Nobu London turns 25andbirthday this month. As part of the festivities, the restaurant is hosting an auction offering an exclusive ‘Notting Hill’ experience at Nobu London with dinner and overnight stay for two, to raise money for The Childhood Trust. For more information about the auction and to place a bid, click here.