Alexandre Gauthier, the chef who walks on the crest

Interview with the French chef, guest at Identità Milano. In his cuisine, he always seeks the vulnerability of creativity

12-06-2019
Alexandre Gauthier, born in 1979, is the chef at t

Alexandre Gauthier, born in 1979, is the chef at the restaurant opened by his father in Montreuil sur Mer, La Grenouillère. Until Saturday 8th June he was at Identità Golose Milano with a menu created for the occasion: for info and reservations on the next events, visit the official website
All photos are from OnStage Studio

«A story destined for success, that started in 1979 with Roland Gauthier in the miniscule hamlet of Pas de Calais: here he opened a restaurant and soon achieved various acknowledgements on a national scale. In 2003, the baton of the kitchen passed to his son, Alexandre Gauthier, who brought the family restaurant to the Olympus of French fine dining, after training with Regis Marcon».

These are the words used in the Guida di Identità Golosefor La Grenouillère, in the review signed by Passione Gourmet. This story arrived in Milan, last week, through the cuisine of chef Alexandre Gauthier – here’s his profile in this piece by Gabriele Zanatta. Until Saturday 8th June, the French chef prepared four dinners at Identità Golose Milano during which you could taste the menu he created for the occasion. 

Gauthier with his assistants and the brigade of Identità Golose Milano

Gauthier with his assistants and the brigade of Identità Golose Milano

We discussed his father’s heritage, which one day he took on his shoulders, with Alexandre Gauthier, at the end of the first service in Via Romagnosi. It was the beginning of a nice chat. 

«I believe that having such a heritage was a marvellous thing for me – the chef said – because it was a gift, and I continue it with lots of love. Heritage is something you pass on, so that it can be kept, and not forgotten. It’s never been a weight, but a reason to be proud: I’m proud of my family’s story and of the story of the French gastronomic culture. Besides, what’s important is knowing how to go beyond all this, how to work hard to become the person you want to be. Heritage is a surname, but you must work very hard to give meaning to your first name: I love the story of my family and the work my father did, but I want to be myself and present what is now my philosophy in the kitchen, which is different and independent. I’m a cook who looks at the present, not at the past». 

With Alessandro Rinaldi, resident chef at Identità Golose Milano

With Alessandro Rinaldi, resident chef at Identità Golose Milano

What is the most important value you have preserved from your father’s heritage?
My father taught me one thing above all: the love for others and for this profession. Cooking is also, and most of all, showing interest and love for others. It’s about giving all of yourself to give pleasure to others, it means arriving here in Milan with my cuisine from north France, to give pleasure to people I don’t know and who don’t know me. My father has a big heart and in my family we’ve always had a loving approach to others: it may sound simple and banal, but it’s not. 

What is the newest and most personal element you added to your cuisine?
I believe that in order to do signature cuisine you must take risks, place yourself in a fragile, risky position. It’s like walking in the mountains, always on the crest: you perceive the vulnerability you experience in that situation. The research we’re doing with our cuisine is about reaching that crest: two steps to one side, or two to the other, and we wouldn’t reach the result we seek. Instead, we must always put ourselves in a condition where we can risk, feel vulnerable and aspire to the top. I’m convinced that even the people who dine at your place, will perceive that effort: it’s not something material, it’s impalpable. 

I asked you about your father’s heritage also because I’m convinced that every French chef must face another important heritage, which is your fine dining history, the most important in the world, perhaps sometimes cumbersome if one would simply like to be himself. What’s your relationship with this history?
There’s a quote from Gustav Mahler I like very much…

«Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of the fire»: it was the quote used for the last edition of the Identità Golose Congress!
Yes, that one, exactly: we’re on the same wavelength with Identità! I adore Mahler, his story, his music, his personality. His music was difficult for the time, he loved dissonance. And dissonance is not about wrong tunes, it’s the freedom of finding new sounds and new roads. With cooking it’s the same thing: for me it’s about freeing yourself from tradition, but without forgetting it. It means knowing tradition, in order to overcome it: it’s in my cultural heritage, I bring it with me, but at the same time I’m walking down my road. Then every cuisine is good, if made with soul and passion: every style has its public. I have my own, a super-classic chef will have his. 

One thing I believe is very important in your restaurant is the link with nature. How would you like to explain this relationship?
It’s true, for us it’s very important. I believe cooks now have an important responsibility towards the environment: we can address an audience that listens to us, we can speak to farmers, breeders, fishermen who listen to our words and interpret our needs. We must train together, we must all improve, and aim for social progress, as a team. In a restaurant, this means that there must be a nice atmosphere in the kitchen, there must be absolute gender equality, you must try to reduce waste to a minimum, as Massimo Bottura teaches us, it means creating opportunities to help those in need, again something Botturahas shown us with the Refettori. We need action, not just speaking with journalists: this is why I have a very ambitious project in mind, which is to eliminate from my restaurant, within two years and a half, any product that comes from a multinational corporation. Not one will remain. It won’t be easy, but we want to try. And there’s something else…

What?
When you run a big restaurant, you should never forget to nourish your relationship with the local people. It’s easy to lose sight of this relationship: you have a famous restaurant, very expensive, with tables booked weeks ahead. Local people are no longer able to go to that restaurant. It’s a problem. This is why I decided to open a small bistro, like Froggy’s Tavern, and more recently another causal place called Anecdote. I wanted to think about the everyday life of the people who live in Montreuil sur Mer, about their possibilities, and show them that fine dining is not just a 300-euro bill, but you can interpret it with simple dishes and ingredients, that show true and comprehensible flavours, interpreted with the spirit of fine dining. To make it clear: I’m not referring to the bistros some chefs are opening around the world. For me what’s important, even though it’s less profitable, is opening these places in your area, in the place where you were born and where you live, nurturing your relationship with the local people. 

To finish, here are the four dishes from the menu signed by Alexandre Gauthier for Identità Golose Milano. We start with Beetroot capsule 

To finish, here are the four dishes from the menu signed by Alexandre Gauthier for Identità Golose Milano. We start with Beetroot capsule 

Blinis with whole milk and crab 

Blinis with whole milk and crab 

Chicken, verbena, green wheat and vegetal anemone 

Chicken, verbena, green wheat and vegetal anemone 

Timbale of goat cheese and apricot ice cream 

Timbale of goat cheese and apricot ice cream 

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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Tales and photos from the first International Hub of Gastronomy in Via Romagnosi, 3 in Milan