My life in food: Patrice Pinet, master blender, Courvoisier

 

Pinet is only the sixth master blender at the French cognac house, so often works with cognacs, some of them 40 years old, that have been handed down by his predecessors.

He joined the house in 1989 after studying agronomy in Bordeaux, rising through the ranks to be appointed master blender in 2009. Pinet was instrumental in introducing the company’s system of printing the cognacs’ ages on the bottles, a modest revolution in the cognac world.

What are your most and least used pieces of kitchen kit?

Most used would be a wok. I use  it to prepare everything from vegetables to fish. It is the best  way to prepare nice food very quickly – that helps a lot when you are busy. Everything else I can live without. I don’t really have anything I don’t use.

If you had only £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?

I would definitely spend it on cheese from a good French fromagerie. Which? I like lots but my favourites are comté (from Jura) or a good reblochon from  the Alps.

What do you eat for comfort?

Veal and carrots – this was a simple dish that my wife prepared for me when we first met. It takes me back to that first encounter  – and all of the memories from  our earlier days.

If you could only eat bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

I like both bread and potatoes. But I am from France – so it would have to be bread. I could eat fresh French bread for the rest of my life.

What’s your desert Island drink?

I suppose I would say this – but the Courvoisier XO I make. Why? Well it’s aged for 20 years and is perfect for sipping when you have time to enjoy it. Fantastique!

What’s your favourite restaurant?

How to choose just one favourite? In London my favourite restaurant is the Roux brothers’ place at The Langham – the food is excellent. If I go for a drink in London it is to Rules. Now that is a very special place. I like the surroundings – traditional and classic London. The Ivy is also another great bar – it does some very fine cognac cocktails. If I  am to eat out in Paris, though, I tend to favour La Tour D’Argent, where the pressed duck  is exquisite.

What’s your favourite cookbook?

Well, my first cookbook was Cuisine Sans Souci, which translates as “cooking without trouble”. My mother gave this to me when I left home. it taught me the basic cooking skills that I still use today. I now often use Cuisine du Cognac. The author is a favourite of mine: Françoise Barbin Lecrevisse. She used to work for us some time ago and she specialises in creating dishes with cognac.

Who taught you about cognac?

At Courvoisier we have a tasting committee. Over the years I have learnt a lot from the people on this committee. One of the most important people for me here was Maurice Raguenaud. He was a specialist in distilling cognac and he started teaching me when he was 70. He taught me a great deal. Jean Marc Oliver, who was once a master blender himself, was important, too. His was a different speciality – he taught me about blending eau-de-vie,  an intricate art.

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