My Secret Life: Hélène Darroze, chef, 41

Interview,Charlotte Philby
Saturday 15 November 2008 01:00

Born 23 February, 1967, in Mont-de-Marsan, south-west France, Hélène Darroze is a Michelin star-awarded chef. She started out as Alain Ducasse's right hand woman at the Louis XV restaurant in Monte Carlo before going on to win two Michelin stars at her eponymous restaurant on the Left Bank in Paris. She is currently head chef at The Connaught in London

The house/flat I grew up in.... was an old Mill in Villeneuve-de-Marsan , Les Landes, in South West France. I spent my whole childhood and left home at 18

When I was a child I wanted to be .... a surgeon - my mother was a chemist. I had even enrolled at college to study medicine before I changed my mind.

The moment that changed me for ever ..was my first ever service at the Louis XV restaurant in Monaco, when I was working with Alain Ducasse. I had been working in the office and he encouraged me to work in the kitchen. That first service made me realise I was destined to be a chef.

My greatest inspiration.... is the area where I am from, in the south west of France. It inspires many of my recipes; in terms of ingredients, such as Espelette peppers.

My style icon....Ines de la Fressange, a Parisian former model, and the who the muse behind Roger Vivier shoes.

If I could change one thing about myself...I would have longer legs.

At night I dream of...I am sorry , that is really a secret

What I see when I look in the mirror...Someone very tired

My favourite item of clothing ... My Prada black thigh-length suede boots. I love them so much I also bought them in brown.

It's not fashionable but I like ... wearing baggy track suit bottoms

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at ...knitting and in particular, embroidery. I have made many sweaters and find it is the perfect way to relax and unwind

You may not know it but I'm no good at ...tasting wines. I rarely drink so will only do so at tastings, when it is something very special.

All my money goes on ....buying things for my daughter Charlotte who I adopted from Vietnam two years ago. I love to buy her pretty clothes and toys and spend time decorating her bedroom. I also have a naughty love of beautiful clothes myself: anything from Chloe , Sonia Rykeil and Miu-Miu

I drive/ride...a Smart car, when in Paris. In London, I love taking taxis or walking

My house/flat is ... A Flat in Mayfair just around the corner from The Connaught. I am very lucky to live in this wonderful neighbourhood. And in Paris, I live in St Germain. I like to live near the restaurants as we work such long hours .

My most valuable possession is ... My gold cross that I wear round my neck. It was given to me by my maternal grandmother for my communion. She was very dear to me and told me it would bring luck. Every morning I touch it and say a prayer

My favourite building ...The Taj Mahal. I visited India three years ago. I love the story behind the building

Movie heaven ...I love Robert de Niro in The Mission , and I also helped play my own part in the creation of Ratatouille, the movie, which I am looking forward to sharing with Charlotte when she is old enough to enjoy it – it is very funny. The scenes about the cheese are all based on my restaurant.

A book that changed me ... I fell in love with Gone With the Wind as a young girl, and read it three times

The last album I bought/downloaded ...was Queen's greatest hits. My daughter is just starting to sing and she loves it

The person who really makes me laugh .. is Charlie Chaplin; slapstick humour really appeals to me.

The shops I can't walk past ...Pierre Herme in Paris, its my favourite. I love anything with chocolate and Herme is a very dear friend.

The best invention ever ... the Eurostar, it has revolutionised my life

In ten years time, I hope to be ... I have a deep long-term desire to go to India and work with children in orphanages, though I'm not sure if this will be in ten years

My greatest regret ....that the profession I have chosen and love leaves me so little free time to devote to my friends and family

A life in brief

Born on 23 February 1967 in south-west France, Hélène Darroze began her career as Alain Ducasse's right-hand woman at the Louis XV restaurant in Monte Carlo. She then went on to win two Michelin stars at her eponymous restaurant on the Left Bank in Paris. Darroze is now also head chef at The Connaught in London and divides her time between her Mayfair and Paris homes, which she shares with her daughter, Charlotte

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