For anyone who loves to sink his or her teeth into a creamy, fluffy pastry, the visit to Le Cordon Blue Paris can be a delicious treat. It gets better still when you watch ‘the king of macaroons’ and master chef Jean-Jacques Tranchant, at work.
He is serious, focussed, whipping up the egg yolks with an intensity artists reserve for creating a masterpiece. The man who has trained with famous master chefs such as Emile Tabourdiau in cuisine, or Jean Paul Hévin for chocolates, has worked with Fouquet’s at the Champs Elysées, renowned for its international show business clientele. His stint at the two Michelin-starred restaurant, Hotel Nikko, had him working with the famous chef Joel Robuchon.
“The smells” in his village “where families were baking cakes” and in the kitchen at home where his mother and grandmother cooked, enticed him. Poitou Charentes, the region where his village, Bonnes, is located, is known for its excellent butter, melon, goat cheese and Cognac. Since his village was “too small where it was impossible to learn cooking,” chef Tranchant had to go to the town of Poitiers, located 25 km away, to study. Cooking techniques were fascinating. “It can begin from making very simple fruit tarts using all the seasonal and multiple fruits that France offers, to pastries such as croissants and brioches to very sophisticated wedding cakes,” he says. The first batch of cakes he baked at school was the highlight of his training. His teacher also pushed him to read books of famous chefs such as Marie-Antonin Carême, known as ‘the king of the cooks and the cook of the kings’, and also Auguste Escoffier, who was considered one of the most talented classical French chefs ever. Both were responsible for the codification of the French culinary art.
Of course, he has a sweet tooth: “this is necessary to be a pastry chef. I enjoy re-inventing flavours and adapting them to classic recipes such as the éclair. I’ve made an éclair baked with crumble on top, filled with Matcha tea mousse (Japanese powdered green tea) and glazed with passion fruit. I create flavoured macaroons with thyme, basil and green lemon, passion fruit and chocolate. Food is a critical part of life. Meals were, and still are, the opportunity to spend time with family or friends. They also give you the chance to talk to people. ‘Conviviality’ is a very important concept in the French art de vivre in every levels of the French society. Table is ‘sacred’,” says Tranchant.