When Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were his neighbours: French chef in Hong Kong Maxime Gilbert talks madness on the Med, Michelin stars and learning from Yannick Alléno

Asia's Tech News Daily

Post Magazine

“I was born in Cognac, near Bordeaux, in the west of France. My father worked for a cognac company called Aldi. He spent six to 10 months of the year travelling to Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore and Taipei.

“My dad was always telling me about his travels. When I was around seven years old we almost moved to Hong Kong because he spent so much time there, but a year later we moved to Bordeaux instead.

“My dad’s side of the family were musicians and photographers, while my maternal grandfather was a pied-noir [a term for French settlers in Algeria] – ‘black feet’ – living in Algeria, where my mother was born. During the Algerian revolution, they got kicked out and left with only their suitcases.

“My grandpa started again in Cognac by sweeping floors in a company and ended up becoming CEO of 2,000 employees. Even though the two families were so different, my parents loved to eat. Growing up we always had good meals, but no fancy ingredients.”

Did you go to culinary school?

Post Magazine

Ratatouille from Écriture. Photo: Écriture

“I started making cakes with my mum and by the age of 14 I’d decided to become a chef. I applied to Lycée Hôtelier de Talence, in Bordeaux, and at the time they received 500 applications, narrowed it to 300, then accepted 75. In the interview I had to wear a suit and they were very tough with me, maybe because I have a big mouth and talked a lot. I did the five-year programme.

“My first internship was supposed to be as a waiter wearing a bow tie, but I didn’t want to do that so I chose to do my training in a bistro in Soulac. The second year I arranged to go to Restaurant Richard Coutanceau, where the son, chef Grégory Coutanceau, told me stories like how at Hôtel Plaza Athénée [in Paris] people opened €5,000 bottles, and about menus that cost 200 to 300 francs, and Michelin stars.”

What was it like working in the US?

“Just before my final exam at the hotel school, at 19 years old, I wanted to go to the United States and got a job in the bistro at the Sofitel Philadelphia. I spent less than a year and a half there. Many of the kitchen staff were big black guys and then there was me, a skinny French guy, but they were supercool.

“I grew up in the restaurant. The week I arrived, the chef got fired, and a new guy replacing him resigned. One day I went to see the executive chef and asked if I could be the chef. A month later he gave me the position. I wasn’t even old enough to go into a nightclub.”

Post Magazine

Zucchini tart from Écriture. Photo: Écriture

What did you do next?

“I soon realised I was a chef, but of what? I didn’t know what I was doing, I’d never worked for a chef before or a big restaurant. So I bought the Michelin Guide and my dad helped me write a nice cover letter and I hand-wrote each letter to every two- or three-Michelin-starred restaurant in France.

“At the time digital cameras were new so I added photos of my dishes to my CV. I wrote to chef Yannick Alléno and soon started working with him at Le Meurice hotel, in Paris. He boasted of being a two-star chef taking over a one-star restaurant and of how he was going to get three stars. The first year he got his second star and the third year he got his third.”

Post Magazine

Plouneour menez pigeon from Écriture. Photo: Écriture

You were with Alléno for 10 years. What did you learn from him?

“A lot and he also evolved a lot. There are chefs who are stubborn and don’t change, but he’s open-minded and has a vision, which is what I try to do at Écriture. I can see what he did when I was with him and what he is doing now is not the same. You cook for a reason. He is a very hard worker, he’s not waiting for something.”

What was it like working in the Cote d’Azur?

“I went to two-Michelin-star Le Restaurant des Rois, in La Réserve de Beaulieu, on the Mediterranean coast. It’s a small palace converted to a hotel that was family-owned. Every morning the owner came to say good morning to everybody, and we cooked every lunch and dinner and took it to his flat.

“I was living in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, and at one point my neighbours three houses down were Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Every morning I saw 25 scooters there and never understood why. At the end of the summer I met a chef who told me he cooked for them. That’s when [Jolie] gave birth to twins, in 2008.”

What did you do after that?

“I went back to Yannick Alléno and he sent me to Marrakech to open the Royal Mansour. I started as sous chef but was quickly promoted to chef de cuisine. I stayed two years and it was amazing. I did everything, trained the staff, created recipes on my own. I had a diplomatic suitcase flying in produce every week, like white truffles, turbot and Miéral Bresse poularde.

“In 2013, I arrived in Hong Kong to work at Amber as chef de cuisine. I love the city because you can get the best, beautiful produce from all over the world. Chef Richard Ekkebus [of Amber] was working with products from Fukuoka and I fell in love with Japanese produce, especially the seafood, which has a lightness to it.”

Post Magazine

Miyazaki wagyu, black truffle from Écriture. Photo: Écriture

What was your vision for the dishes at Écriture?

“I created most of Amber’s dishes and could have taken some of the best ones, but it would look like Maxime took Amber’s dishes. I had to rethink everything. When you work for a long time for a big chef you have this tendency to continue to do what you have been doing and it’s very difficult to be detached. It took me four years at Amber to detach myself from Alléno. [At Écriture] I was ready to go fast, and had no second chance.

We opened in April 2018 and in December that year we received two stars. Now we keep improving the restaurant, it’s a constant evolution.”

Post Magazine

Maxime Gilbert. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

How do you create dishes?

“Before, I used to draw them out. Now I write my ideas down. I think about the flavour profile, the texture and then finally the presentation. Some dishes we bring back from before and change them, or they are seasonal.

“This year the game menu will be different. I can do a beautiful venison with a strong sauce, but I prefer to do something I haven’t done before. My next step might be to go to a country where I don’t have access to all this top produce and try to be as good as here.

“It needs to be a challenge; if it’s the same, it’s less exciting. Artists have periods because they evolve, they finish doing something and then move to the next thing. Some will be better than others but they keep playing, enjoying and discovering.”

​Like what you read? Look for more food and drink in SCMP Post Magazine.

Internet Explorer Channel Network
Asia's Tech News Daily
News Related

OTHER NEWS

Itaewon Class soundtrack singer Gaho talks K-dramas, his first LP, Fireworks, and sharing his emotions and stories

While Squid Game and Hellbound are the biggest K-drama hits of 2021, in 2020, everyone was talking about Itaewon Class. And everyone who had watched that show was listening to ... Read more »

Music therapy for better sleep and stress relief … in a Canto-pop song? Jocelyn Chan explains her use of tuning forks in Sound of Silence and the theory behind it

Do tuning forks have any place in a pop song? Yes, says Hong Kong singer-songwriter Jocelyn Chan Ming-hei – her song Sound of Silence, which recently topped city public broadcaster ... Read more »

Xiaomi to build its first electric vehicle factory in Beijing suburb

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is building its first electric vehicle factory in the outskirts of Beijing, according to a local government announcement, marking an important step for the firm as ... Read more »

World Vegan Month: No, Veganism Is Not Just a Plant-Based Diet | Here's What You Must Know

© Tanya Garg | India.com Lifestyle Staff The World Vegan month of November. (Picture Credit: IANS) Greetings, vegans! The month of November is designated as World Vegan Month. Plant-based eaters ... Read more »

China Evergrande's electric-vehicle unit gets US$200 million from returning undeveloped land

China Evergrande New Energy Vehicle Group returned several undeveloped land plots to the Chinese government in exchange for 1.28 billion yuan (US$200 million) to alleviate its cash crunch and keep ... Read more »

Victoria's Secret lingerie challenged by Parade, a start-up selling underwear for all body shapes, founded by 24-year-old Cami Téllez

Cami Téllez never liked buying underwear, but maybe that’s why the 24-year-old is suited to take on Victoria’s Secret. As a teen in Princeton, in the US state of New ... Read more »

Tom Brady said Thanksgiving is the only day a year he says "screw it" to his strict diet

© Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images, Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto via Getty Images Tom Brady said Thanksgiving is the only day a year he says Tom Brady usually follows a strict ... Read more »

Hong Kong nightlife veteran Richard Feldman on why Lan Kwai Fong is ‘a magical place' and opening his new gay bar, Petticoat Lane

I was born in Montreal, Canada, in 1965. Back then, Montreal was much more anglophone, an English city in a French province. My mother is from France and I grew ... Read more »

It`s tougher for women of colour: Chef Asma Khan on sexism in culinary industry

© Provided by Mid-Day You can almost smell the biryani, taste the phuchka, and hear the crackle of the luchis being fried, when you watch Asma Khan’s — chef and ... Read more »

How Song Hye-kyo took the fashion and beauty world by storm, from Fendi to Bottega Veneta – but which products are in her new K-drama Now, We Are Breaking Up?

After a two-year sabbatical, legendary Korean actress and fashion icon Song Hye-kyo makes her return in 2021’s long-awaited SBS K-drama Now, We Are Breaking Up opposite heartthrob Jang Ki-yong. Fans ... Read more »

Why Chinese electric cars are causing a buzz in Thailand

Veteran Thai journalist Nithi Thuamprathom has covered the automotive industry for two decades but it was only recently, at an exhibition in Shanghai a few years ago, that Chinese electric ... Read more »

‘It's tougher for women of colour'

© Provided by Mid-Day You can almost smell the biryani, taste the phuchka, and hear the crackle of the luchis being fried, when you watch Asma Khan’s — chef and ... Read more »

Gourmet's delight

The room where I cook is perhaps where I spend most of my time, more than what I spent at home or with anybody else. So the kitchen is my ... Read more »

How to bread chicken using flour, egg, and breadcrumbs

© Kerkez/Getty Images How to bread chicken using flour, egg, and breadcrumbs Breading chicken happens in three stages: flour, egg, then breadcrumbs. Cook breaded chicken by baking, shallow frying, deep ... Read more »

7 Mouth watering Malvani fish recipes you must try

© Provided by Pinkvilla When you think of Malvan nestled on the west coast of our country, thoughts of pristine beaches, palm trees and delicious Konkani fare probably jump to ... Read more »

China Overseas Land sells stake in Kai Tak land plot for HK$1.35bn amid gloomy mainland market outlook

Leading Chinese developer China Overseas Land & Investment (COLI) has sold part of its stake in a plot in Kai Tak, site of the city’s old airport, as the mainland ... Read more »

The world needs more Elon Musks to turn zero-emission planes and ships into commercial reality to help reverse climate change

When Tesla beat expectations in 2017 and delivered 102,000 electric cars to customers, the feat inspired an entrepreneur born in the former Soviet Union to think big: one day, battery ... Read more »

Health Lab Kids chocolates recalled after milk detected in Woolworths, Big W products

A vegan chocolate brand has recalled a number of its children’s products sold at Woolworths and Big W stores around the country after milk was discovered. Health Lab Mylk Chocolate ... Read more »

How to buy and sell data? Shanghai starts new exchange for trading massive amounts of data like commodities

The Shanghai Data Exchange opened for business on Thursday, marking China’s latest attempt to build a vast market for data – dubbed the new oil of the digital economy – ... Read more »

ByteDance said to launch new wave of education job cuts, as employment prospects dim in China's tech sector

Beijing-based ByteDance, which operates TikTok and its Chinese version Douyin, is expected to cut at least 1,000 jobs at its education unit, marking a sharp contrast to this time a ... Read more »

Tomato Prices: Here are the Best Alternatives to Tomato You Can Use for Your Dishes

© Provided by News18 Tomato Prices: Here are the Best Alternatives to Tomato You Can Use for Your Dishes Tomatoes are used extensively in Indian food, appearing in everything from ... Read more »

China's world-class business environment plans ‘address' some concerns, but ‘implementation key'

China is ready to open new economic areas and provide more conveniences to lure foreign talent and investment in the latest bid to build a market-oriented and law-based business environment ... Read more »

Ant Group applies to China's central bank to set up personal-credit scoring joint venture with state-backed partners

China’s central bank said it has received an application for a personal-credit scoring joint venture between Ant Group, state-backed Zhejiang Tourism Investment Group and four other investors, allowing the fintech ... Read more »

US-China tech war: state media questions Washington's intent on demanding chip supply data from TSMC, Samsung amid ‘targeted sanction' concerns

China’s official state media has accused the US government of hatching a plot to obtain more information about the country’s semiconductor industry and hold back its development, following Washington’s recent ... Read more »

Paytm shares rout deals painful reality check for India's ‘casino' IPO markets

India’s booming IPO market has suffered a painful reality check with mobile payments start-up Paytm’s shares tanking in their trading debut. The rout is seen as scooping some of the ... Read more »

Beijing looks into setting up digital asset exchange to push the e-yuan

China is exploring setting up a virtual asset exchange as the government lays out the next step to complement its pilot of the digital yuan, according to a blue print ... Read more »

15 landmark travel cafes across India you must visit at least once

© Provided by Lifestyle Asia The travel cafes in India are what makes travelling to the mountains even more special. Whether you are a solo traveller or like travelling with ... Read more »

Hong Kong's secondary home prices fall by the most in 14 months in October as banks turn cautious on valuations

Hong Kong’s lived-in home prices dropped by the most in 14 months in October after peaking in August, with buying sentiment cooling as banks become more cautious in valuating property. ... Read more »

China food delivery giant Meituan reports 10bn yuan loss after paying antitrust fine

Meituan, operator of China’s largest food delivery and on-demand local services platform, reported a worse than expected loss in the third quarter, after swallowing a fine by China’s antitrust regulators, ... Read more »

5 K-pop idol siblings to know: Blackpink's Rosé and Jisoo's sisters look like they could be stars, while J-Hope of BTS' sister Jung Ji-woo is a fashion influencer

The K-pop world is filled with beautiful faces; some idols were even scouted for their striking looks at a young age. And it comes as no surprise that many Korean ... Read more »

Flat head syndrome – facts about the condition behind the helmet-wearing baby fad and how to prevent or fix it

To this day, Susanna Koh remembers the time a father walked into her clinic and asked staff to help treat his baby boy’s flat head syndrome. Before she could say ... Read more »

Chinese state media renews warning against NFT ‘zero-sum game', flagging ‘fraud' risks as digital collectibles gain recognition

The People’s Daily, mouthpiece of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, has spoken out against the investment fever around non-fungible tokens (NFTs), questioning whether it is another “zero-sum game hyped by ... Read more »

29 Korean stars who tested positive for Covid-19 – Blackpink's Lisa just did, following Exo's Xiumin, Ateez's San, Dreamcatcher's Gahyeon and K-drama actor Ji Chang-wook

Around the world, attempts to restart the music industry have had mixed results as a wave of stars continue to contract the virus. Now Lalisa Manoban – better known as ... Read more »

Are Chinese property developer stocks a good buy right now?

Up to September, the Chinese property sector had come under increasing pressure from market controls ranging from credit tightening to purchase restrictions. Home sales and land acquisition slid across the ... Read more »

How to Get Your Children to Eat their Vegetables and Fruits

As a parent, one of the most important things you can do for your child’s well-being is ensure they eat a healthy, balanced diet. Maybe had one of those weeks ... Read more »

Korean variety shows the world has copied, from Running Man and The Masked Singer to parenting reality TV series Mom is an Idol and The Return of Superman

On November 12, the streaming platform Disney+ premiered Outrun by Running Man, a spin-off of the popular South Korean variety programme Running Man. The new show features several of the ... Read more »

Debt-stricken Fantasia becomes first Chinese developer to face a wind-up petition, possible liquidation

Fantasia Holdings Group said a major subsidiary was facing a wind-up petition filed by its creditors, which could force the debt-ridden Chinese developer into insolvency. The Shenzhen-based developer said in ... Read more »

Hong Kong stocks fall most in eight weeks, with Chinese delivery giant Meituan expected to report widening quarterly loss

Hong Kong stocks dropped by the most in almost eight weeks on Friday, before an earnings release by Meituan that is expected to show a widening quarterly loss. The Hang ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic