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Pierre Gagnaire: ‘We must accept the destiny that life imposes’

by

Special To The Japan Times

Name: Pierre Gagnaire
Age: 66
Nationality: French
Occupation: Executive chef
Likes: Soccer, mashed potato
Dislikes: Excessive photographing of food, meat cooked sous-vide


1. What brings you to Tokyo this time? I’m here to spend time with my team, to try to grow, to be honest in our world, to keep the energy up — to maintain the quality.

2. Besides Tokyo, do you have a chance to travel? I don’t have enough time to travel. But we went to Iwate for a few days — it was very interesting!

3. Do you have one favorite place outside Tokyo? Okinawa. It’s very special. But there are so many beautiful areas. I would like to visit the island with the art (Naoshima in the Seto Inland Sea).

4. Why did you become a chef? I was born into it. My family was in this trade, so I had no choice!

5. Was there one person when you were young, you thought “I really want to be like them”? (Renowned chefs) Alain Chapel and Fredy Girardet. I never worked with them. But from them, I discovered the way to manage a team — for me that was the inspiration.

6. What is gastronomy? To me, “gastronomy” is nothing — it is not important. The most important thing is the people you are with, and the people you meet day after day.

7. What is the dish/recipe you would like people to remember you for? No single dish, but a way of working. When I arrived here, the challenge was to change things, not to criticize but to adjust the details. With the details, you have my signature.

8. What about modern cuisine, such as molecular gastronomy? The problem is not the chefs. It is the people who talk/write about the food. A food writer has to have a good sense of taste; but when he thinks he has the taste of God, that’s impossible!

9. If you had to stop working in your restaurant — if you could not work with food — what would you do? I don’t know. That makes me think of the terrorist attacks in France — so many people died, but there are also many people who are not dead (but injured). My friend is alive but his professional life is finished. He has the energy, he’s not too old. He must find another way to live.

10. Some chefs are introducing insects in their food? Is this interesting to you? Never! Not for me! If I served them here, I’m not sure the Intercontinental Hotel would appreciate it. To be honest, I think serving insects is just a posture.

11. How has Japanese food culture influenced you? When I first came here in 1984, I felt that here is a country where the food is not only food — it is a way of life, a philosophy like the gardens, flower arrangement, pottery.

12. Are there any ingredients you take back to France? I try not to use Japanese products. It’s too easy. Now everybody uses wasabi, soba, soya, Japanese pots.

13. How about fast food culture? No comment. It’s the same all over the world. But maybe it’s not too late. I think people are starting to understand that maybe (fast food) is not the future.

14. What do you think about people who take photographs in your restaurants? It’s not just stupid — it’s a disaster. There are even people now who take photos and don’t eat the dish. People who excessively photograph food don’t come for the pleasure, they come because they must be there. That’s totally crazy.

15. What do you eat on your day off? Vegetables. I eat meat when I travel, because in Japan the meat is fantastic. Also, in Korea. But I love vegetables.

16. Do you have a favorite comfort food? Mashed potatoes — with pork, roasted not braised. I love that! You make a hole in the middle and fill it with the jus (meat cooking juices).

17. If you could have dinner with anyone, who would you choose? Takeshi Kitano, the actor — he’s very famous in France. Or (Haruki) Murakami — he’s a fantastic writer.

18. Is cuisine an art, a science or a craft? I wrote a book with Herve This called “Food is Art, Love and Technique.” I believe that.

19. What is your favorite phrase? “We must accept the destiny that life imposes.” Ultimately, we don’t choose our destiny — life chooses for us.

20. Do you have any words of advice for young people? Work. Learn to be yourself. Take responsibility. Your life is your life.

For more information on Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire at ANA InterContinental Tokyo, visit www.anaintercontinental-tokyo.jp/pierre_ gagnaire/eng.