Eric Frechon's Uniquely Innovative Cuisine – The Mark of a Master
Renowned three-star chef Eric Frechon of Le Bristol in Paris will craft French Heritage Society's gourmet 30th Anniversary Gala Dinner at the Château de Fontainebleau on October 13th, 2012. He received his third Michelin star in 2009 and the prestigious title of "Meilleur Ouvrier de France" in 1993, the coveted award decorates his office, lined with books on varied cuisines, in the heart of Le Bristol's vast kitchens.
His office looks out upon a team of 110 people under his command as a ballet of cooks and waiters prepare dishes sent out on silver trays to the faithful clientele of Le Bristol. One such admirer, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, personally bestowed upon Eric Frechon the Legion of Honor in 2008. Le Bristol and the Elysée Palace line the prestigious corridor of elegance and power along the rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré.
Frechon, originally from Normandy, has an engaging smile and shows an obvious delight in discussing his passion for refined and innovative French cuisine, as he sat down recently to speak with Karen Archer.
"My father was a farmer, my grandfather sold the vegetables and I cooked them. That was the family's story. But what really set me on my path was a bicycle. I wanted a bicycle and my father told me that I would have to work to pay for it. So, the only way to make some pocket money was to go and work in a restaurant. I began by opening oysters and that is when I discovered the restaurant world, which I adored. I was just 13."
Frechon enrolled in a cooking school in Normandy where he excelled. "I was very lucky as I was first in my class. So I was placed in a prestigious establishment in Paris. That is where I discovered the world of great luxury and elite Parisian restaurants that I was not at all familiar with. And that is when it all came together and I knew that this was what I wanted to do. It was not just the cooking, but the entire atmosphere that appealed to me, the waiters, the relationship with the clientele."
"My first memories are of my mother's cooking. Sunday mornings she would make apple tartes and cakes that I remember helping her with. As I evolved I have been fortunate to have had many honors and personal successes that have marked by career and have been very rewarding: three stars from Michelin, Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 1993 and the Legion of Honor most notably."
Frechon is celebrated for creating dishes that leave a lasting impression, which surprise and delight. He explains that "many things go into making a dish which is unforgettable. It can be a classical dish that becomes unforgettable. For example, poularde en vessie. I did not invent this, but we have perfected it by finding the precise cooking time for this dish. The flesh of the fowl is like nothing else that can be found anywhere. Others make this dish but it is not as tender, as succulent, nor as juicy.
Then there are also pure creations with the association of unexpected ingredients, for example foie gras and smoked oysters with a duck and green tea bullion. It seems unusual but this is a great dish which leaves a lasting impression that is so unexpected, with a slight Japanese touch. It is served on the plate like a gift-wrapped present. As soon as it is cut open the fragrant vapors of the smoked seafood surprise and astound."
It is clear that cooking is a complete aesthetic experience for Frechon. "The innovative marriage of foods comes from much experimentation. For that particular dish, it was a trip to Senegal that inspired me. A woman on the beach was cooking oysters on an open fire. I tasted the oysters, which were not good quality, but that smoked flavor was extraordinary. And I thought, I have to do something with this. So we made smoked oysters with foie gras."
"I have been at Le Bristol for twelve years now, and each and every day I take the same approach. I always try to be better tomorrow than I was yesterday. I wake up each morning with the same passion and desire to please and to share that pleasure. I think that is the key to success, first of all to take pleasure in it and then to share it with my chefs and then my clientele. This is really the challenge we face every day, and for every dish. We can make an excellent dish one day but we have to do it every day and with each and every dish. That is what is difficult really. It means being rigorous and demanding and it entails having a good team as well, which is important."
Le Bristol is important to Frechon for many reasons. "Being at Le Bristol allows me a much greater creativity. That is why I am here. I am able to undertake anything here. There are no limits. If we cannot do that here, where can it be done? I am able to fully express myself with all the possibilities that Le Bristol offers, the finest products, the necessary personnel, the luxury to excel and innovate for a refined and demanding clientele in an exquisite setting. Here everything comes together at its finest. I have real creativity and can leave my mark. People come here and they know why they are coming – to enjoy Eric Frechon's cuisine. They really come for that, but it is also because I have been here for twelve years now and have a very strong reputation at Le Bristol."
"For your 30th Anniversary Gala, I have created a menu in consultation with Astrid Stanfield-Pinel. The main dish will be duck, canard challandais, extraordinarily tender, which I want your guests to discover. And I will also have them discover something else very special, caviar de Sologne with haddock. There will be an impressive surprise dessert as well." So a truly unforgettable feast awaits us, crafted by one of the world's most masterful French chefs.