Chef Name: Jean-Philippe Blondet
Title: Executive Chef, Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester.
How old were you when you started cooking professionally?
What I consider to be my first job was actually an internship in 2000, when I worked with Jacques Chibois for three months in between my NVQ level 1 and NVQ level 2. This was my first experience of a large international team and allowed me to learn how to work with people who had very diverse profiles and backgrounds. It was a two Michelin starred restaurant, so there was a bit of pressure too, which showed me the reality of the business. It was an eye-opener and reinforced my motivation to join this industry.
What’s your earliest and fondest first memory of food?
It’s interesting to see how often food memories are connected to a motherly figure. My earliest and fondest memory of food is the one of the crêpes my grandmother would prepare during my school holidays. I remember she used to add a knob of butter under the crêpe while it was cooking. The butter would caramelise and become so deliciously sweet! I remember competing with my brother to see who would eat the most.
Which chefs inspire you most and why?
Of course, I would say Alain Ducasse – he is a visionary and is always a step ahead. He pushes me to excel, to surpass myself and he challenges me. Habits are bad habits, we should always reach out for the next stage.
I am also inspired by Pascal Féraud, Ducasse Paris Corporate Chef. He gave me my first job when I finished school. I remember being so impressed by the organisation and precision in the team. Pascal has always been a great support and has kept a watchful eye over me. I am here today thanks to him and I am very grateful for that. He inspired me to work with rigour and excellence.
What are your two favourite cookbooks and why?
I use cookbooks for inspiration. I like to browse them and draw in inspiration from the pictures and the words but never go into the details of the recipes.
One book stands out though, the Grand Livre de Cuisine Méditerranée, published by Ducasse Edition. It belongs to a cult series of founding books. This one really stuck with me as it refers to my roots (I was born and raised in Nice, on the French Riviera).
Which two ingredients could you not live without?
Again, I will go back to my origins. I could not live without olive oil, it is at the core of my cuisine and is such a versatile product to use. And chocolate! I am an addict! I love darker milk chocolate (over 35% cocoa), so it has a bit more strength and power. I eat chocolate all day, every day. I like to indulge but it is also my anti-stress!
What is your favourite comfort food to cook at home?
Without hesitation, I would prepare myself a steak haché! I’d use a piece of very good quality lean meat, like a thick flank, that I would mince before colouring it briefly in a pan. It has to be medium rare inside but caramelised outside (with loads of butter of course!). And I would serve it with gratin dauphinois for the ultimate comforting dish!
If you could eat at any Michelin star restaurant in the world today, where would it be and why?
My dream is to visit Dan Barber at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. I am fascinated by his philosophy and the eco-system he has created on the farm. I would love to experience it as a diner.
And who would you take as your guest?
My fiancée Ania is the perfect guest and we love sharing these moments around the table together.
What do you look for in a good chef?
It is quite simple for me – motivation is key. I am looking for chefs with passion and dedication to their craft. Skills are important but these can be taught, unlike motivation.
What advice would you give to chefs starting their career paths now?
I always advise to take the time to build one’s foundations. It is important not to cross the finish line too quickly and not to race through the stages. One has to take time to master each step. It is about strengthening one’s roots before growing.
Jean-Philippe Blondet is Executive Chef at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester.