My Life in Food: Benoît Gouez, Cellar master, Moët & Chandon
'I have memories of blue lobster from Brittany, just grilled with nothing else'
Friday 05 October 2012
Benoît Gouez has been chef de cave at Moët & Chandon since 2005. Prior to this he worked in California, Australia and New Zealand. Unlike some of his contemporaries he wasn't brought up in a wine region or in a wine family but fell into it "through a series of chance encounters and fortunate circumstances and, above all, an innate flair for this profession." He has just released the 2004 Moët & Chandon vintage, which is on sale now.
What are your most and least used pieces of kitchen kit?
A glass of wine! When I cook, and I do cook at home almost every night these days, I always start with a glass of wine by my side, just to have a sip from time to time. It can be champagne, it can be Moët & Chandon, it can be another wine. But yes, I always have a glass. On the other hand, I never use a microwave. Never. I don't like the idea of the microwaves.
If you only had £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?
You don't get anything for £10. I think I would buy a good bread, a small piece of a good Comté and a third element that would be – and that's the most difficult to find – a good, ripe tomato. Not the ones you find in supermarkets, but a tomato that is juicy and tasty. Bread, tomato, cheese, with £10 I should be OK.
What do you eat for comfort?
Cheese. I would say either Camembert au lait cru with a good affinage [ripeness] from Normandy, because I grew up in there, or in a more classical way, a good Comté of at least two years of affinage. There is always cheese in the fridge for snacking or for cooking.
If you could only eat bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
Potato. It comes from nature, it's the most simple expression of nature. Bread, however, is a creation of man.
What's your desert island recipe?
It comes from my childhood. My grandfather was a lobster fisherman in Brittany, and I have memories of blue lobster from Brittany just grilled with nothing else. And I can't find it any more.
What's your favourite restaurant?
RyuGin in Tokyo, Japan. The name means – if I'm right – "dragon" in Japanese. I am in love with Japanese cuisine. The chef is called Seiji Yamamoto, he has just got three Michelin stars and I did the launch of our vintage 2003 with him in Japan. We were born the same year, in 1970, and there is a fit. It is more than the food – it's the relationship that I have with him.
What is your favourite cookbook?
I would say the Alain Ducasse Grand Livre de Cuisine. For me, so far, of the modern books, it's the most complete.
Who taught you about wine?
I don't come from a wine region or a wine family. It was only when I entered the college of agronomy in Montpellier that I started to get interested in viticulture. I would say that my mentor was Denis Boubals, the professor of viticulture at Montpellier. He's dead now, but he was known worldwide, had established vineyards in China, Japan and Chile and he was so charismatic and passionate that he was certainly the one who made me go for viticulture and oenology.
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