Food is also an artform for French Michelin-star chef Vincent Lucas.
“For me cooking is something very natural. I get a sense, have the creation in my mind and then I need to do that creation,” he said.
The chef from Nice developed a love for cooking at his mother’s side in their French kitchen.
“When I was young, my mother liked to cook, so I cooked with her.”
His teachers, at the hotel school where he had enrolled with the hopes of becoming a winemaker, recognised his talent for food and advised him to change his course. He did but his unusual cooking style nearly cost him his qualification. The final exam was a highly technical affair, requiring precise measurements and exacting styles – a method of cooking which Vincent found unnatural. So he invented a dish that made sense to him. It surprised his examiners, but he still passed, he explained laughing.
This unique cooking style has carried over to Vincent’s cooking demonstrations and restaurant, Etincelles, where there is no set menu and patrons are served whatever he is inspired to cook on that day, rarely repeating the same dish twice.
“This is a risk,” he said. “Because if I’m tired or in a bad mood, then I cook shit.”
Each of Vincent’s dishes “respects” the individual flavours of the foods he uses, whether it be meat, vegetable or dairy based, and whatever he adds is designed to complement and enhance the centrepiece of the dish – and not to overpower it, he explains.
He will be giving South Africans a taste of his distinctive cooking style during the Goût de France (Good France) event.
The French culinary experience is in its fourth year and takes place on a global scale. For one week, 2 000 restaurants, in 250 countries add French dishes to their menus from Monday March 19 to Sunday March 25.
“Restaurants are free to choose whether they will serve French cuisine for one week, one day, or one meal,” said Marie Traisnel, the spokeswoman for the French embassy – the organisers of the event.
Twenty-one South African restaurants and hotels will be taking part, including the Four Seasons hotel in Johannesburg, where Vincent will be cooking, and three venues in Cape Town: The 41 in Camps Bay, Chefs Restaurant, in Gardens and Floreal Brasserie at Marianne Wine Estate in Stellenbosch.
The invitation is still open for more participants, Marie said.
The food this year will be based on the traditional foods of the Aquitaine region of France, which features lots of oysters, fish, duck – especially duck liver – and cheese.
Vincent’s restaurant is in Perigord, in Aquitaine, and that is why he is the ambassador for this year’s event.
There will also be a South African cultural injection this year, said Marie. Wine connoisseurs will pair each dish with a South African and French wine for a “cultural discussion”, she said.
Booking for the event is done via the participating restaurants. For a full list of the restaurants taking part visit the French embassy’s website.