Exclusive Interview with Pierre Gagnaire
Dubai, November 14, 2019 – by Edward Smith
FACT caught up with the culinary maestro at Pierre’s Bistro & Bar…
What is the perfect recipe to launching a restaurant in Dubai…
In Dubai, like anywhere else, you need someone who can embody the venue. When I travel, I like to spend time with my team, eat with them, create real links so that they must understand me, my philosophy and they give this identity to the place. This is maybe our signature. One part of the success, hotel or standalone restaurants, it is the personality of the staff who embody the place.
Especially today, when everything is getting more virtual, what is important is the physical presence — you need to feel the people with your senses.
❝One part of the success, hotel or standalone restaurants, it is the personality of the staff who embody the place.❞
How did your story start?
I have spent a part of my life trying to give a meaning to my life by doing a job I haven’t chosen. This was quite complicated to start with, I must admit. On one hand I had to deal with one psychoanalytic issue and on the other hand I was trying to create something through cooking which was more like an experiment than cooking. This is something I can explain today in a few seconds but it took me 20 years to come to this statement.
When I got my third star, I started to take some distance and I realised I didn’t have the right location which was Saint Etienne. So, I got rid of everything and I started a business in Paris with all the success that you know. And from 1996 to 2004 I finalised my culinary concept as I had reached maturity and over these eight years I built something solid with a strong team — my team is the cornerstone of my success. Sorry for the analogy, but I am a bit like Jesus with his apostles — the cornerstone of my business is the people I work with (my disciples) with whom I establish a professional and affective relationship. So, when I have to export my cuisine overseas (London was my first project) I could rely on them to export my philosophy elsewhere. My team is why everything has a meaning today.
What is your main goal with cooking?
This morning I had two women who said they cried while eating my food at Pierre’s Bistro. This happens now and then to be honest. The cuisine I propose creates some emotional reactions—my goal is to create emotions—in every plate I’m cooking, this is my battle, this is really my story.
❝my goal is to create emotions—in every plate I’m cooking, this is my battle, this is really my story.❞
So, are you an artist?
Cooking is not an art per se. Even though a few other chefs and I consider food as art, for most of the people, cooking is considered as a craft or a skill. Craft is also refined though. When the craftsman is preparing a pepper steak he will do it according to a formatted recipe, with the same measures and it will taste always the same way. When it comes to me, you could be either amazed or disappointed and I assert my right to make a mistake.
❝When it comes to me, you could be either amazed or disappointed and I assert my right to make a mistake. ❞
Speaking about taste, are you adapting your cuisine to the local taste in Dubai?
There is no local taste — especially in Dubai — you can find all types of tastes, French, German, north African, Iranian, American, you name it! When I export my cuisine, I have a different approach I’m trying to pay tribute to honor a country or a city through my own sensitivity. My aim is not necessarily to please everyone. First, I’m trying to understand what the market has to offer in terms of fresh ingredients and I will try to adapt the format taking in consideration the latest trends of the markets. In recent years the market evolved toward more laid-back channels with less interest for fine dining cuisine. And that’s exactly what Pierre’s Bistro aims to offer – a relaxed ambience with good-quality food to share. The spirit of sharing, mezze is everywhere in Dubai probably because of the strong influence of the Levantine culture.
❝And that’s exactly what Pierre’s Bistro aims to offer – a relaxed ambience with good-quality food to share. ❞
What matters more – taste or presentation?
The presentation has always been essential for me but maybe less than before. Plate Presentation is very important because it is an invitation to the greed and it is also a mark of respect. Today, I’m less obsessed with the form and I taste my food more often. However, cuisine is like a magazine, if you want people to read a magazine you need to have some appealing images and to create a stunning layout!
❝Overwhelming emotions can kill you. This statement could easily sum up part of my life.❞
Share with us your tips for preparing the perfect weekend family dinner…
I won’t give you a product/dish but a tip. When you choose to throw a dinner for a large group you don’t want the cooking preparation to spoil the pleasure of hosting an event or the quality time you spend with your guests.
So, go for something already prepared and that you can warm up without altering the taste — something slow to cook like a stew, a tagine, couscous a roast leg or a paella. The main goal is to spend time with your loved ones and not slaving over a hot stove.
I remember once I invited chef Alain Chapel, who was like a master to me, at my place and I really overwhelmed myself by cooking for hours in order to please him. At the end I put so much energy and emotions into it that I tired myself and did not enjoy enough of the time we were meant to be together.
Overwhelming emotions can kill you. This statement could easily sum up part of my life.
❝ If I had to define French cuisine, I would say it is a know-how and the main thing in French cuisine are the sauces and a range of different flavours that are very unique.❞
We remember asking Chef Heinz Beck about Italian Cuisine and he said that Italian cooking is like Italy itself: it’s hundreds of cities with thousands of church towers. Do you think this can apply to French cuisine as well?
Heinz Beck is right when he talks about Italian cuisine but this doesn’t apply to French cuisine. You had this new culinary revolution called molecular gastronomy that took place at the end of the last century in France and which influenced a generation of chefs. Today the new generation of chefs in France have a more modest approach to my discipline. At the opposite of the model that I defend, which is focusing on the plate presentation, a nice table setting with the white linen, the new generation doesn’t want that anymore. But if I had to define French cuisine, I would say it is a know-how and the main thing in French cuisine are the sauces and a range of different flavours that are very unique. Then you have all the different cooking methods such as braising, spit roasting, slow cooking, steaming. Without forgetting the fresh ingredients locally sourced and produced by French artisans —like this amazing half-salted butter coming from an artisan who produced in very small quantity each week. Al these things put together allow us to offer to provide beautiful culinary experiences.
Pierre’s Bistro won the award for the Favourite French restaurant in Dubai in 2019. If you want to discover the cuisine of the Michelin-starred French chef Pierre Gagnaire you can visit his restaurant in Dubai, Pierre’s Bistro & Bar at InterContinental Dubai Festival City.
For more information visit https://www.pierresdubai.com/