My life in food: Jean-Sebastien Robicquet, founder, CîROC vodka
'I eat everything with four legs - apart from tables'
Thursday 15 August 2013
Robicquet is a man with alcohol in his veins; his family have produced wine in Bordeaux region of France for roughly 400 years. He began his career producing wine himself – having studied the subject at university – but soon jumped the fence to work in the spirits industry. After 10 years working with Hennessey, he branched out, creating a grape vodka with Diageo and the rapper P Diddy. He is a Commander of Bordeaux, an honour bestowed by the Great Council of Bordeaux, and currently sells 8 million bottles of his vodka each year.
What are your most- and least-used pieces of distilling kit?
My nose. At each stage of the distillation process you have to use it. You can have spirits made from the same grain, with the same alcohol content, but you will find there will be a difference between them – the only way to discover that difference is by having a keen, well-trained nose. I don't have things I don't use; everything I have has to be functional.
If you only had £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?
If I was starving I might go to McDonalds. Or perhaps not. What I would do, in fact, is this: I'd go to a restaurant and order my dinner and then give them the £10 and tell them I'll be back to pay the rest when I have some more money.
What do you eat for comfort?
I don't have a comfort food really. I follow that simple old maxim: I eat everything with four legs apart from tables; everything that swims except submarines; and everything that flies save for planes.
I am not too fussy.
If you could eat only bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
Bread, of course, I am French. You can't dip a potato in soup, after all, or use one to grab food with.
What's your desert island drink?
If I was to choose a cocktail, I would say something classic like a negroni, vespa or maybe a vodka martini. I don't like to go too crazy. And if not that then I would say wine. And if you made me be more specific I would say St Julien, the smallest of the "big four" medoc communes – what it produces is fantastic.
What's your favourite restaurant?
My favourite restaurant is where I feel most comfortable. Often that means my local, La Ribaudière, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Cognac. We work a lot with the chef there, Thierry Verrat. In fact, he does a lot of cooking for us – which is to say he does a lot of combing flavour for us. I enjoy going there immensely, it has a relaxed family air.
Who taught you about drink?
First and foremost, Dmitri Mendeleev. he was the first person to model the vodka distillation process. Without him the Russians would never have been able to make vodka – and neither would I. We owe our vodka heritage entirely to him. Also, Francis I, cognac's "local king" – he is very important to me. He brought us from the dark ages into the light of the renaissance – how could you not find some inspiration in him?
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