Q&A with Didier Quémener, author of Chef Q in Paris: The Fall Collection
Your mouth will water just reading this Q&A about French food from an established chef who learned to love cooking as a child growing up in the French countryside. As an added bonus, find out his top restaurant recommendations in Paris.
You discovered your love of cooking as a seven-year-old growing up in the French countryside. What caught your eye at such a young age?
The first vivid memory that comes to my mind is my grandparents’ garden. With almost 3 acres, they had plenty of space to grow anything that could acclimate to the French countryside. With fruit, veggies and a small farm, it was like Disneyland for us when it was time to cook! I specifically remember how fun it was to just go outside and pick fresh daily products. My grandmother also made butter and cheese, jams… You name it! Every day was a new day in terms of the culinary experience, even in winter when the trip to their basement and cellar was like a treasure hunt!
Your cooking has French and Italian influences. Where did the Italian side come from?
That’s a question you should ask my American wife! Both sides of her family are of Italian roots, and when I first met her mother and grandmother, it was serious business in the kitchen. I specifically remember one particular day when her grandmother had me in her kitchen from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., working nonstop on fresh pasta, Italian sausage, and homemade bread. By the end of that day, I felt like I ran a marathon, but she, in her late 70s, was as fit as a fiddle!
You’re a chef and a writer…which one comes first when you’re writing a cookbook?
What came first, the chicken or the egg, right? I’d say a bit of both, but since recipes are the theme, technically, the cooking side prevails. Then of course, there is always a story behind every dish, and that’s when the conversation and writing pop up. I truly believe that it’s important to speak about your cooking, what inspires you, why you select a particular product, etc.
What three restaurants should anyone visiting Paris absolutely not miss?
If budget was no object, I would not hesitate one second and run to:
Le Grand Véfour (17 Rue de Beaujolais 75001 Paris)
Chef Guy Martin is a pure culinary artist, and you find his passion for food in every single dish on the menu!
L’Epicure, Le Bristol Paris Hotel (112 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré 75008 Paris)
Chef Eric Fréchon’s cooking skills and creations are amazing! The restaurant is magnificent, and the food experience is simply unique.
La Dame de Pic (20 Rue du Louvre 75001 Paris)
Chef Anne-Sophie Pic’s world of cooking is synonymous with elegance, finesse, refinement, beauty… She is a wonderful chef!
What’s your favorite wine and dish pairing?
I might surprise a few of you with my answer, because I’m not naming a wine, but this is my real indulgence: chocolate and tea! We have wonderful chocolate masters here in Paris, so a couple (OK, maybe a bit more than a couple!) of chocolates with a great tea (white, green, oolong, black, pu-erh… You name it!), and I’m all set.
What are a few of your favorite recipes in Chef Q in Paris: The Fall Collection?
I’ll give you three:
The cream of cauliflower since it is one of my favorite vegetables.
The little stuffed cabbage because this recipe comes from my grandmother.
And finally, because we all need dessert, the chocolate pudding & coffee sauce.
Didier Quémener is the author of Chef Q in Paris: The Fall Collection. He discovered his love of cooking as a seven-year-old growing up in the French countryside. Today, Didier, as “Chef Q Paris,” offers private chef services to tourists and locals in Paris, and teaches at The Michel Roux Jr. Cookery School in London. He worked on a pastry documentary with Chef Michel Roux Jr. for the BBC Four as well as “Kitchen Impossible” on U.K. Channel 4. Didier lives in Paris with his wife and daughter. He is a regular at the local markets and always enjoys a good coffee at his local café. Find him on Twitter @ChefQParis or like his Facebook page.
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