I come from a French family that always valued food highly.
Culinary Curator, Fivelements
My mother, a self-taught home chef, always considered food as medicine and cooked simple, delicious, healthy and spontaneous meals, inspiring me to do the same. During my own career as a chef, I struggled at first to align my perspective on food and how I wanted to develop. I knew I needed the strong foundations only found in fine dinning cuisine, but after a while it became clear that my life philosophy didn't match my environment.
Just before I turned 30 I started to reconsider my diet, feeling a strong sense of responsibility to the environment. A series of events told me I was on the right path and gave me the strength to professionally step out of the mainstream to venture into the plant-based cuisine, very marginal at the time.
Since then I remain a vegetarian because I am flexible rather than rigid. When I go back to France to see my family, for example, I will taste whatever my mother gives me, as the pleasure of my family around me is much better than any kind of rigid diet. This is how I will be vegetarian all my life and how I want to inspire people to consider a vegetarian diet.
Learning and living plant-based
After my conversion to veganism in Iceland, all signs pointed to San Francisco. There I created an opportunity to work at Millennium, the most amazing plant based restaurant, learning new skills and contemporary plant-based cuisine (and yoga). I evolved totally. Work in Norway, the Uk and Copenhagen, then Bali with Fivelements, reinforced my continuing dedication into studying and learning everything I could about plant-based cuisine.
It has been almost 15 years now, and step by step I am exploring, simplifying, deepening. When you start as a chef you also want to show off your technique, be part of a movement, have Insta-friendly photos and always do more, more, more; pushing the limits. In order to work and evolve in a kitchen, you need to build up a strong ego that can withstand the high pressure and long working hours, the truly crushing and competitive environment.
Then at some point you realise that simplicity takes true mastery. Simplicity takes out the ego. Like Kung Fu, it's about making the minimum movement for maximum effectiveness, aiming toward purity and fluidity, harmony.
The importance of studying Kung Fu
I started to study Kung Fu many years ago – my family has always practiced martial arts – but at the time travelling so much for my job made it difficult to do more than just scratch the surface.
Here in Hong Kong I found a master, a "sifu". I consider myself very lucky as I am the only westerner to join his group. I practice around eight hours a week, both at home in private and within the brotherhood community. Through his classes I am learning self-exploration. It is humbling, surprisingly deep, and could be associated with meditation in motion, which I practice too. I have to fight my own self and my eagerness. I have to refine my senses to a depth I have never been to before, except in mediation. I have to discover the potential of soft power. It also provides me with an entry point into Chinese culture and Taoism.
To be humble in front of carrots...
In my cuisine too I am on a journey to master my impulses. I am always reflecting on my connection with food, striving to tune into the product, to disappear in front of the food. To bow in respect in front of carrots is not for everyone.