Today’s Chef in the Spotlight is Chef Baptiste Fournier of Sancerre, France, whom we met at Mezze KL, just last week. Voted as one of the top 6 young chefs in France by the famed Gault Millau guide, Baptiste took over the helm of the executive chef role from his father, Daniel at the family-owned La Tour at a young age of 29. La Tour is famous for its accolade as the one-star Michelin restaurant in the beautiful village of Sancerre in the Loire Valley, France. Here is our Interview with him.
It is a very small typical countryside town with lots of hills and valleys. Sancerre is on top of a hill and a big part of our lives, are the wines. Growing up in Sancerre was great – no electronic devices, just a simple life with outdoor activies like biking, hiking and fruit harvesting. The restaurant that I inherited from my dad was his pride and joy, and he had been running it for 30 years before that.
2. How did you know you wanted to be a Chef, and who inspired you to be one?
I grew up in my dad’s restaurant and was often in the kitchen. I’d been helping out since the age of 8. I started with dishwashing and moved my way up. My dad was my first inspiration. I loved the ambience of the kitchen. I loved the activity, hustle and bustle of the kitchen. My second
inspiration can when i started cooking professionally, in the form of Alain Passard and Guy Savoy.
Something that left an impression on me when I was young was when the fishermen would bring big fishes that arrived from sea, alive and kicking, into the kitchen. The cooks would try to kill them but could not. Then they would chuck them in the fridge and bring them out later to bludgeon to death. I felt so sad for the fishes. This memory and vision really stuck in my mind for a long time!
4. What do you find most exciting about KL’s burgeoning culinary scene?
I love that Malaysians just love to eat – there’s food everywhere, all types and any time of the day. Its a melting pot of every type of cuisine imaginable!
Fresh ingredients are easier to get a hold of in my country. Here in Asia, I would like to bring this good practice to the people -ingredients are the biggest part of it but we are infusing a lot of asia flavours into our cuisine. We are using less rich flavours – less butter and cream. I hope that I can impart my knowledge and experience on the play on palate, and how to heighten the the 5 senses when preparing fine food. For instance with the poached snapper, there was a play on the sense of smell – where you could smell the coconut but not taste it.
6. During your travels, which country touched you most? Why?
India – because it was so poor but yet the people are rich in culture and happy with what they had. I loved the vibrant community and culture there.
7. When you’re not cooking for others, what do you like to eat at home?
I like simple food such as vegetables, either raw or cooked. Sometimes I like to cook Asian style, employing a lot of ginger and soy sauce. Sometimes a simple pasta with good parmesan and olive oil can make a lovely meal.
I cook, of course!
9. Please tell us about how La Tour restaurant, got the one-star Michelin. How did it happen. Where you surprised?
I was very surprised as I was not ready to get. I thought my cuisine was not as good as I wished it to be, so I kept pushing myself to be better. A whole sequence of events made it happen but I believe that my personal touch played a large role in it.
10. What dish, item or method of preparation would you say is most representative of your years cooking in fine-dining restaurants?
The poached red snapper. It is an original yet simple product, with just a touch of international flavours, that’s representative of me. I love to prepare this dish. I actually miss it when I give it a break on our menu!
11. Can you share with us, a funny (or memorable) moment, training under famed chefs such as Alain Passard, from three-star Michelin restaurant, L’Arpege and Guy Savoy?
There was something we used to say at Alain Passard’s when I was training there. Instead of calling someone an idiot and saying “You’ve burned the dish!” we would say ” You need a trip to the eye doctor, because obviously you can’t see the dish burning!” Sorry, but I guess you might not see the humor, as it actually sounds funnier in French !
I often remember this sorbet machine.. a big machine in my dad’s kitchen. I witnessed my dad’s cook nearly losing his finger, and blood was every where. The machine is still here and I warn all my new staff about it, every time.
13. Do you have any advice for up and coming Chefs?
You have to be really dedicated, to be a Chef, because it is a very challenging job, with long hours and a difficult environment to work in. But it is rewarding and worth it because, you are able to create a menu, translate that idea from your head into a dish, for everyone to enjoy.. and people might just remember you for it!