Anne-Sophie Pic: 'Chefs bring happiness to people – but I'm no brain surgeon'

Interview,Louisa Long
Sunday 23 October 2011 02:59

Being named the world's Best Female Chef was a victory for all women chefs, because it recognised our professionalism [This was the first year the prestigious San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants awards introduced the category.] Although I was up against two close female friends, I'd say that it was a victory for all three of us, because they are fantastic chefs too.

There was a period when women lost interest in cooking There was a whole generation, even two, where the transmission of cooking between mother and daughter ceased, so there were less women in the industry. Today, it has become more attractive to women again, and I think that's great – yet it's still an extremely macho industry. There is still some reserve towards the idea that women can follow their passion professionally. It's quite contradictory, as while many male chefs admit that it's their mothers or grandmothers who trained their palates, some find it hard to accept that women might join their club. But I do have male chef friends who are open-minded and, thanks to this, the cooking industry is starting to evolve.

I've never considered myself a star I think we must keep our role [as chefs] in perspective – we bring happiness to some people, but I'm no brain surgeon. There are also chefs who makes fabulous things every day but who remain in the shadows. This "star-ification" doesn't really come from chefs – they don't necessarily want to be in the spotlight.

I love to eat simple things I love white asparagus in particular, because it's grown in my region, though I love green asparagus too. If I cook it at home I like to savour its natural flavour, so I just add a little vinaigrette. And when I cook at work it's the same; I don't use loads of different ingredients: it's important that the taste of everything has an impact.

The pleasure of taste is not intellectual People can be deterred by technique, and there must be emotion behind it. I don't want to just do "show-off" cooking, where the pleasure is intellectual. I think that the most important thing is gourmet pleasure.

Creation is by far my favourite part of what I do What pleases me most is trying to intensify the qualities of a given product. There is a very modest side to cooking because we already have fabulous produce and we just try to put it together in a way that brings out its magic. It's fantastic to be able to write one's emotions into a dish and it's magnificent to give a happiness to people, and feel that same emotion oneself.

it will always be my biggest regret that I didn't have a chance to work for long with my father I returned home to start training with him a few months before his death. But I spent my whole childhood in the house with him and there's a form of mimicry that happens between a child and their parents; he taught me a lot in terms of training my palate that will always be an essential part of my knowledge.

Nadia Santini has always been a source of inspiration for me The Italian chef [who has won three Michelin stars at Dal Pescatore and was up against Pic for the San Pellegrino award] is 10 or 15 years older than me and I've always held her up as an example, because she's an extraordinary chef as well as being a mother, like myself.

My proudest achievement is my little boy He's my priority in life. Of course, secondly, it's the fact that my career has blossomed, but having a family is something I find extraordinary. An adventure like that turns you into a different person entirely. My son will always be my biggest success.

Anne-Sophie Pic, 41, is a three-Michelin-starred chef at Maison Pic in Valence, south-east France (

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