Michel Guérard, between new cuisine and slimming cuisine
It was from observing his mother and grandmother, both excellent chefs, that a young Michel Guérard decided to become "magicien en maison de cuisine," a magician in the kitchen. Since 1977, the man considered as one of the founders of Nouvelle Cuisine proudly displays his three Michelin stars at Les Prés d'Eugénie, his estate in the heart of Gascony. Surrounded by the Pyrenees, ocean beaches and the Landes forest, he invites you to "lose weight with pleasure," with his savoury Grande Cuisine Minceur.
What is your philosophy in the kitchen?
I am a naturalist cook, focusing on and elevating the value of products before anything else. "La simplicité est l’habit de la perfection," or "Simplicity is perfection in disguise," is one of my favourite proverbs, and a mantra I aspire to. My kitchen brigade and I prepare each dish as we would a piece of music, making it light, lively, airy, smooth and silky.
What are your signature dishes?
It's difficult to remove the classics from our Michelin-starred menu, as we wouldn't want our clients to reprimand us! These classics are, of course, the Tsarina egg with caviar, the Soft Pillow of Morels and Wild Mushrooms, and the Lobster Lightly Smoked in the Hearth. Verbana reigns for desserts and can be found in the soufflés, chaud-froid, as well as in the Miss Dior Peach in Red Berry Melba.
Where do you find inspiration?
The products themselves inspire. One day we wake up with an idea, a desire to work with this or that type of fish, with this or that vegetable. Then we begin to think about how to highlight it differently, about the main direction that will allow us to develop a new dish. It's similar to the way a painter works on a canvas.
How important is tradition in your kitchen?
Tradition, in the sense of savoir-faire, plays an important role. It's essential to master the techniques and the ideas that come with tradition, to in turn be able to surpass, reinvent or challenge them. This is what we did in the 1960s, with Paul Bocuse, Roger Vergé and the Troisgros brothers, with the movement that was eventually named Nouvelle Cuisine.
What dishes do you like to share with your friends?
All, depending on the seasons and occasions! It could be a delicious foie gras confit in its own fat, a heirloom tomato salad, grilled lamb chuletitas or a succulent prime rib...
What lead you to focus on slimming cuisine?
That began when I arrived in Eugénie-les-Bains, where our Prés d'Eugénie restaurant is located, in 1974. The hotel and restaurant have always worked in harmony with the adjoining thermal establishment, which is specialised in treating people who are obese and overweight.
Shortly after settling in, I realised the extent of despair towards food that these patients were faced with. What to do next was obvious...
Today, our Cuisine Minceur® and Cuisine Santé® (slimming and healthy cuisines) are the result of nearly 40 years of research and experimentation in the kitchen.