|Baptiste Fournier pours Lime Court Bouillon on a fish preparation
Michelin star chef Baptiste Fournier’s earliest memory of cooking was “being a pain in the ass” at his father’s restaurant and asking a patisserie chef for sweet treats. The owner of La Tour, a celebrated restaurant in Sancerre, France, was in town to present a six-course meal at The ITC Sonar, all delightfully paired with wines from Four Seasons and USL’s Bouvet Brut sparkling wines. A t2 chat…
Many critics have applauded your simple creations. Why do you think fine-dining is about simplicity?
It’s not just about simplicity. It’s not just about the process, which may not be that simple. It is about presenting a well-balanced dish. It should not feel complex in your mouth. One must retain the characteristics of the main ingredient in a dish. If it’s a fish preparation, it must taste like fish.
The secret to your Michelin stars is?
Concentrate on fewer flavours. Don’t try to do too much. The trend is to put four little things on a plate, each having a range of flavours; I don’t like that. In 2007 when I took over the restaurant (La Tour) we had 90 covers; now it’s down to 45. Yet, we make more money. I think most restaurants compromise on quality while concentrating on quantity. We cut down 10 covers each year. We focus on quality. If you cook for numbers you can’t get a Michelin star. You should cook if you love the art.
What are some of the obvious things that people overlook while running a good restaurant?
Once I finished cooking a dish (at The ITC Sonar) there were people to wash utensils. I said, “No problem. I can do it.” In my restaurant I do everything. I serve, I can be a waiter. I suggest wines…. I do everything. Equally important is travelling. Increase your exposure to other foods. Keep learning. Exposure helps to identify things that you’re not getting right in your restaurant.
What do you think of Indian wines?
I did try wines from Four Seasons. Each one is true to its style. Sancerre in France is known for Sauvignon Blanc. It’s supposed to be acidic and simple. The Sauvignon from Four Seasons is true to that style. Their Shiraz and Cabernet are very good. Cabernet from France is too heavy in the mouth. Four Seasons’ Cabernet is very different.
How did Guy Savoy and Alain Passard influence your cooking?
My journey started at the Savoy (Bistro Guy Savoy in Paris). I was young and Guy Savoy taught me classic French cooking. It was about traditions and sticking to rules. Alain Passard was the exact opposite of Guy. He was wildly creative, imaginative and almost magical. He taught me to love vegetables.
Do you like Indian food?
I think there are too many flavours involved. I’m not used to it. When I try chicken I can’t taste the chicken. But I love Indian food. I love the breads and last night I tried Bengali food. I loved two dishes –– Daab Chingri, which I asked for with vegetables. And Bhetki Paturi, it had just about enough mustard flavour.
The secret to French cooking is butter, butter and more butter… Is that true?
(Laughs) Not anymore. Young chefs have cut down on butter. But I think Indian food is high on butter!
Owner La Tour in Sancerre, France
Off the block At age 15 he started training under Guy Savoy, the owner and head chef of the celebrated Guy Savoy restaurant in Paris and a sister restaurant in Las Vegas.
Influences Guy Savoy and Alain Passard (runs the three-Michelin star L’Arpège in Paris)
Signature dish Steamed Fresh Water Perch on Spinach with Lime Court Buillon
Achievements Earned his Michelin star in 2011; voted one of the top six chefs in France by Gault Millau guide.
Believes in Simplicity and fresh ingredients