Five minutes with Cyril Lignac
To understand Cyril Lignac‘s profile in France, you need to think of a French-speaking, Michelin-lauded Jamie Oliver, and you’re getting close.
Cyril is big on French TV, presenting his own cooking show, Oui, Chef!, and he also owns multiple restaurants, including his London outpost Bar des Prés in Mayfair. Cyril has gone on to be a judge on Le Meilleur Pâtissier (a sort of Great French Bake Off), and he has sold a jaw-dropping 4 million cookery books globally.
We caught up with Cyril to find out about his favourite ingredients and where he’d recommend eating in Paris.
What’s your very first memory of food?
Pastries. More specifically: cakes. The classic chocolate marble cake I used to make with my mother at the age of 7.
What’s the first recipe you properly learnt to make?
This chocolate marble cake was the first recipe I learnt at home, then other recipes when I was in culinary school. But I loved watching my mother cook. I realised that when you are the cook everyone loves you, which inspired me to become a chef.
What do you like to do to relax?
I play polo – it’s my other passion apart from gastronomy. When you’re playing you have to give it 100% focus, so you really switch off from everything else.
What’s the one dish you can’t live without?
The crab and avocado galette we serve at Bar des Prés. Our signature dish – I adore the juxtaposition of flavours – subtle Indian spices offsetting the crisp pastry with the citrus on the crab covered by thinly sliced avocado.
What ingredient would you take to a desert island with you?
I would choose vanilla. Very versatile, it works with sweet and savoury dishes. Perfect when catching a fish and creating a tartare or ceviche – simply add lemon juice and olive oil.
You can have a one-off dinner party on your desert island… who would you invite?
Mick Jagger, and the Rolling Stones – I adore them and I think it would be a really fun gathering.
What are your top Paris foodie recommendations?
For wine: Caves Legrand filles et fils (4, Rue des Petits Champs 75002 Paris)
For chocolate: Patrick Roger (19, Rue de Sèvres 75006 Paris)
For cheese: Marie Quatrehomme (62, Rue de Sèvres 75007 Paris)
What has been the most formative experience of your career?
Launching Bar des Prés in London. I love the city – it has so many authentic cultures and is so brilliantly varied in ethnicity. Everything was so different to Paris. British produce is really incredible, I loved discovering it. People here work in a different way, I had to adapt and grow.
It’s 8pm, you’ve just got home. What are you rustling up for tea?
Last night I had a great piece of cod. Simply add a little water to the oven pan, lemon juice, olive oil and spices on the fish, add some cherry tomatoes around the fish, pop in the oven for 20 mins at 150 degrees – perfect!
Is there anything about the food industry that bugs you? We’d like to hear your thoughts…
I admire the way every supermarket in France has a system to re-distribute food to food banks rather than waste it. It would be amazing for this to also happen in the UK.
What advice would you give a young person trying to start a career in food?
I would tell them it’s an amazing job. Go for it! This job gave me everything (I’m so thankful).
Beyond the cooking itself, you meet people, you travel. Cuisine is a universal language.
What’s your all-time favourite cookbook?
Ottolenghi because I love the variety of recipes and dishes in his books. The combination of spicy and healthy. Bold combinations. Dishes that transport you to other lands.
What’s your most prized kitchen tool?
The knives I bought in Tokyo, Japan.
What are your culinary ambitions for the year ahead?
I seek to open a second restaurant in London. In Paris, I will open a restaurant in March, The Dragon. It will be another Franco/Asian concept serving dim sum and bao salads, located on Rue de Dragon in Paris.
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