Anne-Sophie Pic, Chef Patron, La Dame de Pic, Four Seasons London

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 8th May 2017

Anne-Sophie Pic is the only current French female chef to hold three stars in the Michelin Guide France. She began her culinary career in her family’s restaurant, Maison Pic, in Valence, south-eastern France.

Since then she has gone on to open restaurants in Lausanne, Switzerland, and Paris, garnering awards and accolades along the way. La Dame de Pic at Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square is her latest venture and will be her first restaurant in the United Kingdom. She says she is ‘proud to be in London and propose my cuisine to British people’.

The Staff Canteen caught up with Anne-Sophie just six weeks after La Dame de Pic opened at the Four Seasons to find out why she wanted to come to London, what British diners can expect from her menu and why she thinks it’s important for female chefs to stay feminine.

Anne Sophie Pic
Anne-Sophie Pic

You have your restaurants in France, which you are already known for, what made you want to open a restaurant in London?

A few years ago the Four Seasons Group asked me if I would open a restaurant here in this beautiful hotel and I was very honoured by this request. We worked together to come up with a gastronomic restaurant, but quite informal, which would sit well within the environment here within this beautiful building. I was also very happy to open a restaurant in London as I find the gastronomic scene here very interesting.

Talk us through the concept and aspirations for your first UK-based restaurant.

I’d already opened a restaurant called La Dame de Pic in Paris and Four Seasons appreciated the way it was done in terms of service and they didn’t want a restaurant that was too formal here in the hotel. So we have tried to create a good balance between the restaurant in Paris and this one. We wanted to create the same atmosphere in terms of decoration, design, the service and the cuisine. But as it is in London I wanted to push higher with the food, it’s much higher in terms of cuisine compared to what I was thinking in the beginning. I felt the team was able to push forward so although we are at the beginning of this adventure, and it’s a big challenge, the second step for me is to learn more about British ingredients and introduce some of them into my cuisine.

I’m always curious about ingredients from all over the world and I like to be quite complex in terms of aromatic flavours in the dishes. It will be something new perhaps for some British diners, to try some of these ingredients I propose.

Beetroot and Bourbon Pointu Coffee
Beetroot and Bourbon Pointu Coffee

How hard was it to build a team here?

When you are opening a restaurant you have to build a good team so for me there is a good balance in this team of both French and British. Some of the members of the team used to work with me in Valance and Lausanne also as I have a two star restaurant there. So they are used to cooking with me and they know how I like it to be served in my more formal restaurants.

I chose Luca Piscazzi as my head chef as he is very adaptable, we worked for a few months together in Valance and he really gets the spirit of my cuisine.

It’s challenging to have people coming from different places but it’s very exciting for them to work together and it’s a good balance.

Talks us through the design of the restaurant.

We tried to catch the spirit of my restaurants in France especially the white part of the design. I like white very much so we have a white kitchen and frames with beautiful paper flowers inside. We feel very comfortable here, it’s not too conventional and quite modern.

Let’s talk about the menu and some of the dishes on there.

I have my signature dish here which is the Berlingot, it’s a special shape of pasta I created in Valance, and in each restaurant, there is a different Berlingot. I like to work with many combinations of flavours and I like to create different sauces. France is well known for sauce, unfortunately, it has become heavy in people’s minds and all my work over the past few years has been to reinvent the sauce. I want to make it lighter but still full of flavour. It’s not easy to have flavour without butter, milk and oil but I wanted to present this work to the London scene.

Four Seasons La Dame de Pic
Four Seasons, La Dame de Pic

All the combinations of flavours are in the sauce but also the cooking of the ingredients brings together each dish. The presentation is also very important, I decided to select some dishes for this menu which were very close to the spirit of my cuisine. I didn’t want to be shy withit, when I opened my restaurant in Lausanne I was not in the same mood. I thought I should go little by little, step by step to present my cuisine because I was afraid how Swiss people would react to it.

In London, I’m older and I wanted to believe people here would come and understand the spirit of my cuisine.

What about ingredients, are you enjoying using British produce and discovering new products?

The Mille Feuille Blanc is a dessert I used to serve in Valance, it’s also a signature dish and I shouldn’t say this but in London I think it is better! It’s because of the cream. I’m finding more and more producers who work in specialist fields as in for honey or gin – it was something I was surprised to find in London. I visit new suppliers every time I come to London because it helps me to push my cuisine forward. I didn’t expect people to know who I was here but when I went to Neal’s Yard cheese one of the sellers had my book which was nice.

Do you still find it strange when people recognise you?

I’m proud of it, I’m not shy but I have a lot of humility so I’m always surprised when people know me here in London, I never thought it would be possible. It makes me very happy when people ask me to sign their books.

Citrus and Curcuma
Citrus and Curcuma 

>>> Related: Anne-Sophie Pic revealed as honorary president of judges at Roux Scholarship 2017

In terms of accolades you obviously have 3, 2 and 1 star restaurants already but what are your plans for La Dame de Pic here?

It’s not the opening of a bistro or brasserie here, it’s the opening of a gastronomic restaurant - I feel the team are able to get one or why not two stars? But we will have to work hard for that, I encourage them and push towards the level of the dishes to gain these stars. We have to improve every day and it’s not just my job, it’s the job of the team. My cuisine is, of course, my cuisine, the team need to be able to make it well balanced and consistent that’s what will make the stars come. But we will see and we will have to do it little by little.

You are the only female chef in France to achieve three Michelin stars in 50 years, how did that feel and was there a lot of pressure as the third generation of the Pic family to achieve this?

My family’s story is very close to the Michelin Guide story because my grandfather was one of the first chefs to get the third star in 1934. The first issue of the guide including the stars was in 1933 so we were there at the beginning. When we lost the third star in Valance after my father’s death I was very determined to regain it. It took time but now we are in our tenth year since regaining the third star.

Stars are a reward and we shouldn’t forget that and what is most important is to make people happy. We have to concentrate on the customers and if we do a good job then hopefully the reward is a star. That’s the point of this opening, to make people happy and then to concentrate on the reward if we deserve it.

Four Seasons, La Dame de Pic
Four Seasons, La Dame de Pic 

I was not the one destined to run the business as I have an older brother. When I went in the kitchen to learn to cook it was after my studies as I was not sure if I wanted to be a chef. My father passed away a few months after I decided to go into the kitchen so it was a hard time for me but because it was so difficult I found the strength to go further and have my own way of cooking.

How tough was it as a women in the kitchen when you were learning?

It’s difficult for a woman in this job, especially to prove you can achieve stars. In the beginning, I felt the pressure and I was afraid of making the wrong choices and not living up to the reputation built by my grandfather and my father. Because of this fear it impeded me going any further, once I became comfortable with my own cuisine it I was able to push forward and in the end, regain the third star – but it took time.

What would you say to inspire more women to pursue a career in the kitchen?

The best advice I can give to female chefs is be a woman. I had only male examples although there was my great, great grandmother at the beginning of the Pic dynasty but I felt I shouldn’t be a woman in the kitchen. I thought I should be tougher but I think it’s important to be yourself. I work like a woman and all the emotion which I put into the dishes it comes from my heart. If you try to change and be like someone else that is wrong, I think it’s important to keep the femininity.

You’ve only been open a couple of months but how has La Dame de Pic in London been received so far?

It’s difficult to say but I think we are quite happy with the feedback we have had but we still have to go further and challenge ourselves as a team. We want to continue to progress but so far it’s been a good start.

>>> Read more in The Staff Canteen Meets series here

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 8th May 2017

Anne-Sophie Pic, Chef Patron, La Dame de Pic, Four Seasons London