October 07 2011
This morning I landed back in Paris and went to my flagship restaurant at the Plaza Athénée Hotel. If my schedule allows, I love to start the day early in the kitchen. It brings me so much joy to see the fresh, seasonal produce arriving and seeing the whole brigade work seamlessly and efficiently together. I really feel at home in this kind of bustling atmosphere.
It was great to catch up with Christophe Saintagne, my executive chef, at the restaurant. He has been working with me for more than 10 years and he is young, smart and highly talented; he is a perfect example of the thirty-something generation of French chefs.
He introduced to me his new trainee, a young woman who is one of the 15 women participating in a training programme called Femmes en Avenir (“Women With a Future”). We launched the first edition of this programme last year with the support of Paris suburbs’ local authorities. The objective is to offer underprivileged women a one-year cooking diploma and offer support for a future job. I have been working with a dozen acclaimed French chefs to welcome these young women into their kitchens for the practical side of their training and, most importantly, we all agreed to hire all of those who will obtain their cooking diploma. Last year, 13 out of the 15 women completed their training. This is a new frontier for learning: giving a second chance in life and a project I am particularly passionate about.
At the end of that day, it was time for a little treat. I must confess I am fond of British Stilton cheese. I bought it on my trip to London yesterday. I managed to escape the schedule for 45 minutes to go to Neal’s Yard where I always buy delicious cheese. I allowed myself a solo tasting in the kitchen. It was as good as I expected. I went home that night and prepared a homemade chutney with some dry Italian grapes, golden raisins, shallots, Xérès vinegar and Muscat wine jelly and enjoyed it with Stilton on crackers as an aperitif with my wife. I’m so excited that this Stilton will soon be on the menu at my restaurant in The Dorchester, London.