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The French revelation

"I might have 3 Michelin stars, but those stars also mean that every dish I make matches the same standard, every single time.”

india Updated: Nov 30, 2010 01:07 IST
Aaron George

Sixteen restaurants all over the world, 3 Michelin stars, and fans like the President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, and first lady, Carla Bruni — Chef Jacques Pourcel (left) has perhaps conquered every culinary frontier possible. “But in the business of food, there’s no resting on your past laurels. I might have 3 Michelin stars, but those stars also mean that every dish I make matches the same standard, every single time” he says, as he prepares to make fans out of Delhi’s gourmands.

Pourcel, along with his team of Chef Benjamin Armstrong and Chef Alain Caron, will be cooking up a gastronomical storm tonight at The Orient Express, the iconic French fine dining restaurant at the Taj Palace Hotel, as it celebrates its 25th year.

“French cuisine, besides being about fresh ingredients used in the simplest manner, is also about an experience for all the senses. The texture of each dish, the taste, the scent, the aesthetic presentation — everything makes an impact. And that is exactly what me and my team plan to do tonight. We want people to experience the very best of France in each plate that goes up in front of them,” says Pourcel. He, along with twin brother, Laurent (far left), started their 3 Michelin star restaurant Le Jardin Des Sens, in Montpellier, France, in 1988.

When asked if he agrees that French cuisine also tends to be a bit ‘intimidating’ for the unseasoned gourmand, he is quick to respond. “On the contrary, French food is a very simple, yet elegant play on the produce used. The aim is to make dishes which a guest can not only enjoy in taste, but also other aspects — how exactly it was prepared, what was done, why it tastes this way and so on.”

Pourcel’s cooking mirrors this philosophy inimitably. He combines the simplicity of Mediterranean cooking, using olive oil, herbs and slightly earthy, spicy flavours, while playing with mixes of salts and sugar. He is famous for the use of exotic fruits in a lot of dishes.

Pourcel’s next big influence, it seems, will be coming from Asia. “We identify really well with Asian flavours. They’re rich in taste, without being overpowering. And, on this trip, my team and I hope to understand the play of flavours in Indian cuisine. The uncanny ability to mould the taste of a produce with spices here is amazing,” he says. The Pourcel School of Cooking will sure be returning with some Indian secrets from this trip!

The dinner tonight at The Orient Express is priced at Rs 6,000 per person.