Products
Cooking is in constant motion. It is guided by the generosity of nature and man. To be precise,
the cook must stay on the alert and must relentlessly taste and adjust the balance of flavours
and textures. This approach is fundamental to me. At the farmers' market, I see the harvest spread before my eyes and I feel excitement. I would not for anything miss this moment when encounter and creation collide.
Complicities
Yellow Lemon
  Lemon has a privileged place in my cooking. As soon as it is present, everything is lifted, starts to vibrate and to exist. It is almost everywhere in the form of a particle, zest, some drops of juice, an atom of rind. Lemon
sets off other flavours, it enlivens food and its acidity underlines the flavours. I have adored lemon and its perfume since I was young, probably because it was frequently used in cookery by my family.
 
      Capers
I've always space in the cupboards for capers. Like gherkins, I am a bit obsessed by this piquant condiment. I recall my grandmother added them to her delicious tomato sauce and used them to accompany veal escalope Milanese. My father used them widely too. He embellished a white butter sauce with them to accompany pike in a court-bouillon, and in vinaigrette dressing sliced raw beef. Not long ago, I discovered capers in salt, a tradition from Sicily. The flavour is slightly floral, a little bitter but not at all acid. I have the impression I've found the true taste. To use them, I soak them in water for a few minutes. Then I put them in a slow oven until they become crispy. Next, either I grind them coarsely and use them to season a variety of things, or I use them whole in a green salad, or tomatoes, artichokes, or fennel, and also with sliced raw fish.
 
 
Tomato
  It probably is due to my Italian origins but I simply can't do without it. When I was a kid, my grandmother carefully prepared "passata" with tomatoes picked in her garden. It took long days to cook, bottle and sterilise them. All year long we enjoyed this sauce with its wonderful flavour, used to accompany gnocchis and home-made pasta. These days my favourite varieties are "cobra" and "beefsteak". They are fleshy, copious and flavoursome. Those of Jean-Pierre Burnot, my producer, are marvellous. Diced into quarters and lightly salted is good enough for me. Of course they are also ideal for all the usual uses.
 
      Pomegranate
The pomegranate has an elegant look. I pick heavy ones, a sign that they are fresh and juicy, with a shiny rind and dark red in colour. I cut it in two, then using a spoon I tap the halves so the juice sacs detach from one another, before sprinkling with lemon juice. To make juice, I press them through a sieve. With the addition of some drops of olive oil and chopped mint, it makes delicious vinaigrette. A Spanish cook gave me a good tip, inspired from the coconut. It's simple; just press and roll the pomegranate numerous times on a table so as to burst the juice sacs inside. Without opening it, make a hole and insert a straw, drink it chilled straight from its natural wrapper.  
 
Orange
  I love everything about oranges. Let's start with its sweet and perfumed rind. Grating it just before serving reveals a delicate flavour, scarcely sharp, a touch of the Orient. I like its flesh just nicely acidic. It is needed to lift food in a sauce, like a lamb navarin, lobster à la nage. In Brazil orange is the essential garnish for the Feijoada, the national dish, made of pork and black beans. And it is also good just cut into fine slices, sprinkled with fresh mint and ginger.
 
      Mustard
Mustard is most expressive when on the side of a plate. Even perhaps when it's in the jar, avoiding contact with hot food which diminishes its strength. Cooking with it is a tricky exercise, the object being to preserve its hot quality. To achieve this, I don't dilute it with any other ingredient. I prefer to introduce little dots of mustard discreetly into my composition. The effect of intermittently prickling the tongue will be intact. It's the hot sort, from Dijon, which is my favourite. And, of course, when freshly made.  
 
Rhubarb
  It's hard to get away from the classics, stewed rhubarb, jam, tart and English-style pie are the most common forms of using rhubarb. However, its tartness goes well with savoury preparations, such as duck, fried foie gras, or even salmon or scallops. I like to chop the sticks into short lengths that I lightly poach in grenadine or mint syrup until just « al dente ». It's delicious with strawberries and vanilla ice cream.
 
      Lime
Each time lime takes me away to a distant place. Sometimes Brazil, Central America or even the Indian Ocean and Asia. In Japan, there's a little lime called Sudachi used to perfume Daschi bouillon. Its intensity, the sharp and bitter notes of its juice, give substance to dishes or food which could be boring. This is the case with avocado, banana, raw fish such as sardine or tuna, mango, turnip or carrot. The subtle perfume of the rind delights me. Grating it onto a dish just before serving helps to lift the food. It's superb with a jasmine tea meringue tart. With jellied eggplant & cumin, it just bursts with freshness. Where it differs from the lemon, which I know very well, the lime with its sweet acidity makes me dream of distant countries.  
 
Passion Fruit
  I have a weakness for this exotic fruit and we have memories together. I discovered it during my first visit to Brazil, visiting my brother Claude. At the time, as it wasn't very well known in France, I thought of the « maracuja » (its Portuguese name) as a bit of a curiosity. Its smell, pervasively floral, and the freshness of its sharp flavour, seduced me to the point I partook of it every day. Just sliced in two and sprinkled with sugar is how I prefer it of all the methods. On a completely different note, I have never forgotten the taste of Frédy Girardet's famous passion fruit soufflé. I was a young commis pastry chef at Crissier. Respecting the Chef demands, the soufflés which weren't absolutely perfect never left the kitchens. And I have to say I never had to be asked twice to check they came up to scratch.
 
      Vinegar
I am drawn to vinegar or rather vinegars because there are plenty of them. No two vinegars have the same flavour. Frankly some sting, are acid, others are sweet and sour, others which are barrel-matured are woody or fruity. Seeking out the best one suited to a vinaigrette or a particular sauce, for deglazing, for chutney or a spicy marinade, is a subtle task.
There exist established harmonies:
Wine vinegar/chicken in vinegar
Sherry vinegar/gazpacho
Spirit vinegar/gherkins
White Orléans vinegar/fruit aigre-doux
Honey vinegar/cabbage
Rice vinegar/sushi
Balsamic vinegar/parmesan and mozzarella
Apple cider vinegar/chicken à la crème and apple
Raspberry vinegar/chocolate, etc.
In my kitchen in Roanne, over time I've put together a collection of the vinegars of the world, which I keep in its own cupboard, just beside the stove. With this range of samples at my fingertips, I can create and taste some original combinations.
 
 
Quince
  It's astonishing how the quince has changed. It wasn't all that long ago that this fruit held little charm and was difficult to prepare. Misshapen, a fluffy and often damaged skin, hard to cut, gritty and astringent flesh, it was regarded as a primitive product. Personally, I had the greatest difficulty of making anything of it other than a jelly or quince cheese.