Following his studies in the Soissons Hospitality College, Amaury Bouhours got an internship at the Louis XV – Alain Ducasse in Monaco. He then moved out to Paris where he got hired as commis at the restaurant Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée. At the time where Alain Ducasse was consultant at Lasserre, he named Amaury as Adrien Trouilloud’s sous-chef for the restaurant located on Avenue Franklin Roosevelt.
In 2016, Amaury joined the two Michelin-starred restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse as deputy chef to Jocelyn Herland and last year was promoted to executive chef of the restaurant. Alain Ducasse stated: “For four years, Jocelyn Herland and Amaury Bouhours were an unbeatable team and all my best wishes go to Jocelyn in his new role.” He added: “I entrusted Amaury with the executive chef position as he represents the new generation as well as a new step in Alain Ducasse’s cuisine de l’essentiel which expresses product’s authenticity et the finest French yet contemporary cuisine.”
We sat down with the Amaury to hear all about why he loves the spring season, how olive oil tops his list of favourite ingredients to cook with and what he does to relax after a busy day.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, including your where you are today, professionally, and what got you here?
I began my training at Lycée Hôtelier Le Corbusier Soissons at the age of 16. I have now been working in the industry for 15 years and one year as a head chef.
My first role was an internship at Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse in Monaco at the age of 18, it was an incredible experience for me. From there I became a junior second kitchen chef at Restaurant Alain Ducasse at Plaza Athénée in Paris and was promoted to senior chef and then second kitchen chef.
In 2016, I joined the team at Restaurant le Meurice Alain Ducasse as chef de cuisine under Jocelyn Herland and last year it was an honour for me to accept the role of executive chef at Hôtel Le Meurice.
What or who inspired you to become a chef?
I always wanted to do manual work – but what enticed me to become a chef was doing a job that offers a moment of joy to other people.
Who has been your biggest influence to get you to where you are today?
Working with chef Christophe Santaigne at Hôtel Plaza Athénée really helped shape the chef I am today. He was the first chef who gave me an opportunity and pushed me to develop my own style. I also admire his approach to cooking, the focus was always on the end result – bringing out the best flavour of each dish, as well as creating a memorable experience for guests.
What’s your signature dish?
I wouldn’t say I have a signature dish, it’s up to the guests to define that. However, if I would recommend a dish from Restaurant le Meurice Alain Ducasse, I would choose the lightly cooked gilt-head bream from Noirmoutier with beetroot, rosehip and smoked yogurt. From Restaurant Le Dali, I’d recommend pigeon from Flanders. We cook it on the barbecue, which really makes the most of this delicate meat.
What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?
For me, a menu needs to be coherent; there needs to be a perfect synergy between the starter, main and dessert. Also, I pay attention to the fact that the menu is well balanced. Finally, and that’s of course the most important, I craft my menu according to the seasons.
Do your personal preferences influence the menu at all?
Yes. I couldn’t serve an ingredient which I didn’t like, but honestly, there is no ingredient I can think of that I don’t like.
How would you describe your cooking style?
I would describe my cooking style as French, modern, seasonal, and focused on provenance.
Do you have a favourite time of year or set of ingredients that you look forward to working with?
Yes, without a doubt it’s Spring. This season adds vibrancy to a plate with a large variety of flowers and plants. It is a very versatile season and very brief as well. Some products are only available for some weeks, which is exciting.
What is your favourite ingredient to create with?
That would have to be olive oil because it’s so versatile, delicious and something I use every day. I particularly love the olive oil produced by Xavier Alazard. His family-run company has been farming for generations in Fourques, near Arles, in the Baux de Provence valley. He prefers a manual harvest, believing this is better for the environment and produces a higher quality oil, with a really rich and aromatic palate.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?
If I wasn’t a chef I would work in the construction industry, I would probably be a mason, as I like working with my hands.
What is your favourite dish to cook at home?
I like to cook simple dishes that can easily be shared with friends and family. A roast chicken or an entire seabream is always well received. I also really adore tender, slow-cooked lamb. When I prepare food, I’m always inspired by thinking about the people who will sit down and enjoy it. Other people’s enjoyment is really important to me.
When are you happiest?
When I am with my family.
What is your favourite piece of kitchen equipment?
Couteau à tourner (it is a small knife usually used for vegetables).
When you’re not in the kitchen where can you be found?
In my bed.
What’s your favourite takeaway or comfort food?
I love visiting a good deli and choosing a selection of smoky yet not too salty charcuterie. When you find this perfect balance, it’s irresistible. A wonderful example of this is Maison Duler’s Domaine de Saint-Géry bacon from Gascony – truly delicious.
Where is your favourite place to dine?
I don’t have a favourite restaurant, as I’m always discovering new places. However, I really like restaurant Rooster in the 17th district – chef Frédéric Duca is very talented.
What do you think is the most over-hyped food trend?
There is a large range of culinary styles available now, which means there’s something for everyone, which I think this is great.
What do your future plans entail?
I live one day after the other without planning too much in advance. However, one day I would love to open a small restaurant near the seaside in a sunny foreign country and enjoy being with my family.
How have the lockdown restrictions affected your work?
Lockdown allowed me to take a step back, to take the time to think about what I want to do. It also allowed me and my team to be innovative, to think out of the box, for example we came up with the idea of launching Le Meurice à la Maison, an at home delivery offering of seasonal menus. This was an opportunity for us to continue working and offer our guests a home delivery service of their favourite food.
What differences do you find working with local produce as opposed to non-local produce in terms of what you can create and flavour?
Quality, freshness, taste, traceability, honestly there is no match.
How do you go about menu planning? What’s the process from picking the ingredients to getting them fresh into the kitchen and into dishes?
A menu often starts with a producer who presents new products. We have a great relationship with our suppliers who regularly come to Le Meurice and present their latest harvest. The conversation and exchange with them is really important and makes me understand the product in greater detail. As a result of speaking to them, new ideas and flavour combinations spring to mind, which allows me to craft a dish.
How would you describe the food you create at Restaurant le Meurice Alain Ducasse and Restaurant Le Dalí to someone who’s never experienced your kind of food?
My cooking style is French, modern, seasonal and focused on the produce with respectful sourcing. For Restaurant le Meurice Alain Ducasse, my cooking is natural and pure, really focusing on the ingredients. At Restaurant Le Dalí, the relaxed atmosphere is complemented by a short menu and every dish is cooked with excellence in mind.
What’s your favourite flavour combination?
Bitter and acidic.
What is the USP of your restaurant?
The hospitality and the staff make all the difference.
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