10 minutes with: Eric Payet, owner of La Rive

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 28th December 2015
Eric Payet has worked with some of the top names in the culinary world, from Anthony Demetre, to Marcellin Marc and he is now bringing his international experience to a local audience in Surrey, with the opening of his new restaurant, La Rive. La Rive 0709150981 low resStarting out as a pastry chef, Eric's culinary journey had an early beginning, working in his parent's pastry shop at the age of nine and going on to undertake further professional training in France. He said: "From a young age my initial inspiration was my dad, because everyday he was bringing fresh pastry for us. But my godfather, who was also a chef, inspired creativity. He was amazing and a real talent." With food featuring in the family business, Eric knew the path he wanted to follow. "I went into catering school for five years to study the technology of ingredients and practise cooking in the same time," explained Eric. "Because my parents owned a pastry shop when I was 16, it was an easy decision. "But my dream job when I was younger was to be a police officer in New York, I think too many episodes of Starsky and Hutch." Eric soon found his place within the industry, starting at Michelin-starred Putney Bridge, working alongside Anthony Demetre at the age of 19. He said: "Putney Bridge was different for me. It was my first full time job in the restaurant industry compared to working in the pastry shop and deli before and I was just demi chef de partie. "I enjoyed working there a lot, thinking about it I think it was the best job I had, where I learnt so much about inspiration, drive, discipline and great camaraderie. Also I met my wife there. I have very good memories from Putney Bridge."_DSC3397 low res Of Anthony Demetre, he said: "[He] is the best chef I've worked for, I owe him so much and can't thank him enough. He is the reason I am doing this job today. Putney Bridge restaurant is a special place for me." But Eric has worked with many great chefs in his time, inheriting a thing or two from each of them. He said: "Marcellin was an ex Gagnaire chef so was very creative, a flexible mind and hard working. "Club Gascon and Comptoir Gascon was all about quality and cost. Where creativity met figures. I am so glad I learnt that part of the business back then. Vincent is a very clever man, I have great respect for him and with Pascal I learnt a lot about the soft, elegant and delicate touch on the plate and his surroundings." Having that experience helped Eric to develop his own style of cooking which led to him opening the Hare Bar and Grill and having seven long years running it. But then after almost two years of planning, he managed to get the ball rolling, having his own place, La Rive. _DSC3507 low resHe said: "On my menu there is still some identity of what we were doing at Putney Bridge restaurant. The Provençal style of cooking comes from Marcellin who I was working with at Putney and Clos Maggiore. We always talked about food, always about the ingredients and his love for Provençal food is immense. Don't get me wrong I agree with him. Provence and Mediterranean food is out of this world. I love vegetables, all sort of vegetables - cooked, raw, anything." Eric points out the differences in styles of kitchen and cooking in both establishments, saying: "Here at La Rive the price brackets are superior so the attention to details is more accurate than it will be at the Hare which is more brasserie type, serving more simple but good quality ingredients. I enjoy both kitchens." He added: "The menu is driven by produce which is at its best at the time we are using them. For full flavour and maturity you have to wait and grab the moment. There is nothing better than eating an avocado, or banana when is ripe just for you." Based in Surrey, Eric explained that sourcing locally is an important concept at La Rive and is great for the industry._DSC3486 low res He said: "All the local producers deserve first choice. It's all about making everyones businesses a better one. But don't forget that every country has good produce too so it will be a shame not using the knowledge and skill from them. Importing quality products means you are open to change & always looking to improve." Having worked in various Michellin-starred restaurants, Eric said he didn’t know if a star would be on the cards for La Rive. "Like every chef with ambition I would love that," he explained. "It will be a great achievement and a great recognition for all the people who have helped me during my career." He continued: "But I am not going to comment on my own food. I will leave it to others to do that. But happy customers when you check all the empty returning plates is also a great feeling." By Renee Bailey

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 28th December 2015

10 minutes with: Eric Payet, owner of La Rive