Michelin star chef Baptiste Fournier has a simplistic approach to food
The kitchen is where he is happiest. Baptiste Fournier attributes it to growing up watching his parents cooking and serving guests at their family-owned restaurant La Tour in Sancerre, France.
“My parents opened the restaurant in 1979; I was born a year later. I started cooking when I was 15 and by the time I was 17, I decided to join the restaurant,” Baptiste Fournier tells us with a smile. The Michelin Star chef was in the city for a French cuisine and Four Seasons wine pairing session at ITC Kakatiya.
Plating sessions are on in the kitchen as we speak and Fournier tries his best to mask his nervousness. He mentions visiting the vegetable and spice market near Charminar hours after landing in the city. “I came to India in 2004 and backpacked through the Delhi-Agra-Benaras route; I loved it. So when Four Seasons asked me if I’d be willing to do this food promotion in India, I agreed. This is the time when business is lean in my village, because of winter. It made sense to move out of France, meet people and try something new,” he says.
Though Fournier visited the spice market in the Old City, he believes in minimum use of spices. “I might infuse the meat or vegetables in lemongrass or ginger, but I don’t use spice powders,” he says. Fournier says the French want both meat and vegetables on their plates.
“If you serve only vegetables, they ask for the meat. But things are changing,” he says. Fournier trained with some of the best French chefs — Guy Savoy and Alain Passard.
The latter introduced him to vegetarian cuisine. “I can eat vegetarian food for days,” says Fournier, explaining how Passard removed red meat from his menu and cooked with vegetables and fruits from his organic farm.
The conversation moves to presentation being a key factor in French cuisine. Fournier says unlike most Michelin star chefs, he prefers simplicity.
“It’s a new trend in France to decorate the plate with almost 40 different things. I keep it simple, with two or three elements. Taste is priority,” he sums up.
Wine and dine
Good food and wine complement each other, believes Fournier. “In food, you should be able to taste the meat and vegetables and not drown them in spices. Similarly, it’s important to be able to taste the grape from which the wine is sourced from,” he says. Chef Fournier was on a five-city tour to New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Bangalore. “We had tasting sessions and worked out a menu — a salad with oven-cooked egg plant with olive oil, lemon and garlic, topped with crunchy radish, cauliflower and broccoli; a creamy risotto; a chicken boat with ginger and lemongrass; lamb; fresh vegetables served with a strong chicken sauce; pineapple ravioli with yogurt and lime and a chocolate dessert,” he says.