Anne-Sophie Pic: here’s how cooking can make you happy

Interview with the great chef at the castle of Grinzane Cavour: «Be open to the others. You can do nothing by yourself»

15-05-2019
Anne-Sophie Pic, first to the right, with Enrico

Anne-Sophie Pic, first to the right, with Enrico Crippa the other day at the castle of Grinzane Cavour

Anne-Sophie Pic is an icon. She’s the only three-starred female chef in France. This weekend she made a stop in the Langhe, in Grinzane Cavour, where she received the “Langhe-Roero e Monferrato: dialoghi del gusto nei paesaggi dell’Unesco” award. We met her, and she revealed some of the important moments in her career, and her future projects. 

Anne-Sophie is a sensitive, intelligent, curious woman, with a unique tenacity that one can notice in her stories. Her studies in economics led her to travel far from home, to discover the world; but her return was for good and, above all, led her to stay in the kitchen of the family maison. Their story is quite unique: her grandfather André [who passed away in 1984] received three Michelin stars already in 1939, and then lost them in between the two wars. The Pic family returned to the top with their son Jacques, in 1973, and this until 1995, when Anne-Sophie’s father died suddenly, and Maison Pic once again lost the highest Michelin prize.

Anne-Sophie Pic, to the right, with sommelier Paz Levinson (this photo, like the following ones, are from Maurizio Milanesio)

Anne-Sophie Pic, to the right, with sommelier Paz Levinson (this photo, like the following ones, are from Maurizio Milanesio)

A young woman at the time, already supported by her husband David Sinapian, she  took the helm of Pic and, day by day, in Valence she built a cuisine that looked at the past, with the rigour and respect she inherited from her family, but focusing on the final goal too, that is to say success. In 2007 she conquered the three stars once again (for the third time! A real record). A crucial moment for the cheffe; but not a final goal because her vision was, and still is, that of working as a team so that all together with her collaborators – in the kitchen and in the dining room – they can reach new and further goals. As she says: being self-trained, she had to nourish her intuitions every day with a new recipe. How so? By focusing on raw materials, through study, talent and (why not?) lots of luck.

The meeting at the castle of Grinzane Cavour

The meeting at the castle of Grinzane Cavour

Madame Pic, your family has been working in the restaurant industry since 1889. 130 years dedicated to cooking: your grandfather André, your father Jacques and, right before 2000, you too... When did you realise cooking would be a part of your future?
«There was a time in my life when I wasn’t quite sure what I would end up doing. At the end of my studies, however, I realised my childhood had been privileged, because I lived right above the kitchen of the restaurant and, to leave home, I had to walk past it. I gradually understood that cooking for me wasn’t just the spirit of the family restaurant, but it’s my whole life, and every moment, the happy and the sad, was marked by its rhythm. In fact, I’d like to point out that I’ve always seen my parents and grandparents happy, most of all because of their profession. Every day I tell my team: if you don’t love others, don’t do this job. You need to be open to the others because alone you can’t do anything».

Pic with Enrico Crippa

Pic with Enrico Crippa

When you started working in the kitchen, there were many cooks who had been working with your father. Did they find it hard to accept young madame Pic at the head of the brigade? How did you overcome this moment?
«I arrived in the kitchen little before my father passed away. Indeed, it happened only two months later. It was very hard. Some collaborators didn’t help me. They implied that I couldn’t do any good. They didn’t lend me a hand. In fact, they left me alone in the kitchen. But others were of great help. My debut, in other words, was complicated; however, I didn’t give up, and for this I have to thank my husband who has always supported me».

Another woman (a chef with three stars in San Francisco, Dominique Crenn) during her speech at Identità Milano 2019 reported on the great stress people experience in the kitchen, due to the media, to the expectations of clients, while trying to preserve the awards received from critics. Do you think this is a female, rather than male problem? And what’s your approach?
«
For me this is not a question of men or women. Women are more sensible and perhaps show it more, while men in the kitchen, despite being equally stressed, try to disguise this with a detached attitude. I believe that rhythm is essential in the kitchen. I hate calm days and I love when we’re busy in the kitchen: there’s adrenalin! You need to handle and dominate these situations. What’s really difficult is to transform stress into positive energy. The staff must share this goal».

Group photo 

Group photo 

Is it true that 50% of your collaborators are women?
«
Yes, both in the kitchen and in the dining room. The restaurant manager in Valance and the sommelier are young women who have been working with me for a while».

You have a total of seven stars between Valence, Paris, London, Lausanne. What are the new frontiers for Pic?
«We’ve discovered Singapore. But for now I don’t have any other projects in Asia».

Pic with Tomaso Zanoletti (Enoteca regionale piemontese Cavour) and the mayor of Grinzane, Gianfranco Garau

Pic with Tomaso Zanoletti (Enoteca regionale piemontese Cavour) and the mayor of Grinzane, Gianfranco Garau

Is your current cuisine a point of arrival or are there news coming up?
«
At this time, I feel like making many changes. There are cycles in the kitchen. Today I’m working on new techniques. For me, evolution is not just about researching new ingredients. For instances, I’m working very hard on pairings with bartenders and sommeliers who are creating complex tasting journeys with wine, tea, cocktails and all sorts of drinks. It’s a real olfactory analysis that must be developed with the person creating the dishes, that is to say myself. The lesson is: there’s a crucial connection between dining room and kitchen».

Your son Nathan is young. Does he love cooking?
«
Indeed, he does. But I don’t want to force him. I tell him to think hard before he takes on this profession. For me it was hard to inherit this role and I don’t want to put him under any pressure. But, of course, I would love it if he’d become a great chef».

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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