It was a true love of food that led Pierre Boffo to become a chef and his appreciation of the natural surroundings, seasonal foods and the edible treats that nature brings is what drives him today.
Pierre is the executive chef at Ilura, the resident restaurant at La Réserve Hotel in Saint-Jean-de-Luz in France, close to the northern Spanish border. We chat to the chef to talk about his love of citrus fruits, flowers and why you can’t beat a pizza.
What, or who, inspired you to become a chef?
Gluttony! It’s simple, I love to eat and my desire to eat great food is the reason why I’m a chef today. At a young age I understood that if I wanted to eat well, I had to learn to cook! This was the beginning of my journey of discovering flavour combinations, the importance of a balanced dish, seasoning, and using quality ingredients.
What’s your signature dish?
Rencontre Entre Les Agrumes Et Les Graines Grillées – this dessert is a cross between citrus fruits and roasted grains. My favourite dishes are those that incorporate citrus fruits.
What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?
Terroir and seasonality underpin everything I do at Ilura. My menus are inspired by nature and my surroundings. When I create a new dish, I want to do full justice to the ingredients that I use revealing the quality of fine regional produce.
Do your personal preferences influence the menu at all?
Certainly, food is personal to me and I want to share what I enjoy.
Do you have a favourite time of year or set of ingredients that you look forward to working with?
June is the beginning of my favourite food seasons, such as cherries and edible flowers. Small flowers are the first edible flowers of the season e.g. borage (starflower), nasturtium, marigold, St. John’s wort.
What is your favourite ingredient?
Kintoa Iberian ham, which is native to the Basque country. It’s cured for around 16 to 18 months, which creates the most astonishing flavour. It’s the perfect snack, with a glass of red, of course.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?
A florist or a gardener.
What is your favourite dish to cook at home?
Pot-au-feu – my grandmother loved making this stew and would cook this often. I have very fond memories sitting at her kitchen table eating this comforting dish. My grandmother was an amazing cook, she was able to take humble ingredients and turn it into something special and this sums up Pot-au-feu – simple yet wonderful.
When are you happiest?
I am happiest when I make others happy. This is what gives me pleasure in life. The secret to joy is giving and not always receiving. I like to walk through the restaurant greeting guests and seeing how our food ignites joy and creates a lively atmosphere. This makes the long hours of prepping and cooking worth it.
When you’re not in the kitchen where can you be found?
At the Skate Park! It’s a great way for me to relax and unwind.
What’s your favourite takeaway or comfort food?
Pizza. No explanation needed – who doesn’t like pizza?
Where is your favourite place to dine?
La Table des Frères Ibarboure – it’s a Michelin-starred restaurant between Biarritz and Saint-Jean-de-Luz.
It’s a 3rd generation family restaurant, now run by two brothers; Xabi working on the ‘salty’ side and Patrice on the ‘sweet’ side. They’re creating exciting food and I always enjoy dining there on my days off.