It’s not every day that Montreal gets to play host to a three-star Michelin chef! Passing through the city as part of the Les Grands Chefs Relais & Châteaux event (benefitting the Fondation de l’Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec), we had the pleasure to meet with Frédéric Anton.
You have learned from some of the world’s greatest chefs, including Robert Bardot, Gérard Boyer and Joël Robuchon. How have they influenced your craft? All of them have left their mark; when you work with the greatest of the great, so much can happen. It’s all part of transmitting knowledge: a chef teaches you what he knows, you execute it, and then you become an emancipated chef who passes that knowledge on to the next generation. It’s a chain in which every link represents a work encounter. When you hang up that chain, it indicates how many things have happened—mine has a lot of links!
You have been working in restaurants since 1983. Do you think the job has changed a lot in 33 years? Yes, everything has changed a great deal. We have seen a veritable revolution in the kitchen. Many factors have had an impact, from producers to products, including dishes and the way food is served. All these elements have resulted in enormous changes for the better!
How has the democratization of cooking through television shows, magazines and recipe books affected your work? It is true that people are now more knowledgeable about food, but that doesn’t change what we do. The good thing is that it has made people want to cook again. They are going back to shopping the markets on Sunday morning. We’ve gone from cooking as a chore—done by the woman, alone in the kitchen, while everyone else has fun—to cooking as a source of enjoyment. People actually feel like cooking. Instead of throwing a frozen pizza in the oven, they prefer a fresh, tasty tomato cut in quarters and drizzled with a little olive oil, vinegar and good salt. It’s real cooking, and it’s incredibly simple.
How do you see the future of cooking? Simply put, we are going back to basics. There have been all kinds of trends: two green beans on a plate, molecular cooking where you have no idea what you’re eating, and so on. Now, we’re going back to a good roast chicken, which has existed since time immemorial, and is probably one of the best dishes in the world. Sure, molecular cooking can produce tiny little balls that taste like chicken, but we’re always going to go back to basics. In fact, you don’t even have to be a creative genius, because good cooking is a nice piece of fish or meat, properly seasoned and perfectly cooked, with a good sauce to go with it, and some attractive garnishes. You can do a lot with very little, so you must master those simple things in your day-to-day cooking. What have been your culinary inspirations? I am inspired by every food item before me. No French three-star chef—there are 26 of us—is influenced by the other. If you start looking at what the others are doing, if you start copying, then you go back 50 years to a time when all restaurant food was the same. Today, we live in an age of signature cooking.
By Manon Lemire and Richard Petit
We were fortunate to visit our guest “at home,” in his restaurant, Le Pré-Catalan, located in the middle of the famous Bois de Boulogne on the western edge of Paris.
There, we had the privilege of discovering one of the great fine dining establishments France. Frédéric Anton is a friendly man with a penetrating gaze in which you sense his passion and curiosity. He immediately took us into the kitchen and introduced us to his crew, who welcomed us with a similar warmth that made us feel very special. The world of Frédéric Anton is elegant, muted and lit with the most magnificent chandeliers. Jean-Jacques Chauveau, named the best maître d’hôtel in the world, and Christelle Brua, a renowned pastry chef, are part of the team. It was an ordinary Tuesday and there wasn’t a single empty seat, which is really no surprise. The uniqueness of the dishes, the incredible aromas and complex flavours all vied for our attention. The meal was a treat for every one of the senses—starting with the eyes, and continuing with the subtle impact on the taste buds from the very first bite. There is nothing ordinary about this truly signature cuisine, which is both remarkably generous and flavourful. We can’t wait to go back!