An encounter with Chef Anaïs Foray
Interview with the chef of Blossom restaurant in Paris
Anaïs doesn’t care to waste energy by debating the place of women in the culinary world. Every day through her work, she proves that her success did not come by chance. This master chef is a staunch defender of seasonal cooking, based on natural ingredients and the simplicity of high-quality products.
In doing so, she more than ably transmits her knowledge and values to her team, as well as creating a sense of excitement among the growing number of diners at Blossom. This distinction, in her eyes, is worth more than the Trofémina – a tribute to exceptional women – that she received in 2015. The credo of this inspired chef? Attention to detail!
Can you tell us about your first professional experiences and your mentors?
My first experience was alongside Davy Tissot, Meilleur Ouvrier de France for 2004, who will represent France in the Bocuse d’Or culinary competition this year. (Editor’s note: Davy Tissot did indeed bring home this prize in September 2021.)
But it was with Yannick Alléno that I had my longest stint. During the nine years by his side, I had the chance to travel the entire world, work in some truly exceptional hotels and restaurants, and participate in absolutely incredible events.
Among the many skills that Yannick transmitted to me was teaching me to push my limits and to open my mind when working with multicultural teams. Notably, this ability allowed me to discover that the French don't work the same way as chefs in Taiwan or Dubai. It's so important to adapt to the locale’s customers and culinary culture by changing the seasonings and adjusting the use of sugar in certain recipes, for example.
Have your travels had much influence on your inspirations?
Travel allows us to discover or rediscover the products that we already have, to work them with new techniques or with other flavours.
During a trip in Asia, we came up with a recipe for poached foie gras made with a bouillon of local mushrooms: king oyster mushrooms, shiitake... We sautéed everything, then put it in a sous vide bag to truly bring out the flavour of the mushrooms. And with the foie gras, it was an amazing combination!
We were so pleased, and it was something we hadn’t really thought of before. It was truly a magnificent dish.
What is your first childhood memory of cooking?
It would be the clafoutis of wild Auvergne blueberries that my grandmother made for me when I was little. This is a dessert that I often make at home and have already taught my daughters. The cycle perpetuates and continues, over and over again.
What's your favourite dish?
I really like blanquette of veal and also crêpes parmentier, like the ones that Joël Robuchon made. My grandmother used to make them for every family meal. We would throw ourselves at the food and almost fight over it! As for my guilty pleasure, it’s hard to pick just one. I’m torn between bugnes (Lyonnais doughnuts) and brioche with pink pralines.
Do you have other passions besides cooking?
I love fitness and running. Those two things really help me relieve stress. My family is equally essential for me to recharge and re-centre myself.
Does being a female chef make it more difficult to take charge of a kitchen at a restaurant like Blossom?
Being a female chef, I wouldn’t say it’s easier or harder. When you have dreams, a passion, the will and the determination, you really can do anything – and not just cooking. This is the same for all professions.
But it’s clear to me that a woman has to work twice as hard and demonstrate her skills in order to gain the respect of her team and peers.
Blossom restaurant supports the organisation Des Étoiles et des Femmes, in which a woman joins us for a year during her training to earn a professional culinary certificate. This programme allows women who have been out of the workforce for some years, or who have arrived from another country, to get back on their feet and get a taste of what it’s really like to work in a kitchen.
Among the current gastronomic developments, vegetarian cooking is gaining greater prominence. Is it easy to integrate this trend?
I think that, little by little, everyone is moving in this direction. It's becoming so obvious, not only for ourselves and our wellbeing, but also for the good of the planet.
And this leads us to make things that we haven’t been in the habit of making before. It’s challenging sometimes, like with quinoa, which for me has a slightly boring image. I remember having to redouble my creativity when working with it, to highlight it and to make sure the dish is enticing.
For example, in September I plan on combining butternut squash with quinoa, cranberries and some turmeric/passion fruit vinaigrette. It’s going to be really good!
Like to sample Anaïs Foray’s delectable recipes? Head to Blossom for moments of pleasure and wellbeing just a few steps from Place de la Concorde.
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