You are one of Australia's most loved and admired French chefs, but can you tell us something we may not know about your own cultural background and family heritage?
Cooking is in my DNA. One of my grandmothers who inspired me most worked as a private cook for a local miller in her youth. Later she was in demand in our village to cook for private functions. My eldest brother is a pastry chef/baker. My sister is an excellent family cook and I have a niece and nephew who are professional chefs.
What was it like growing up in the Loire Valley in France?
I grew up in a village where every household grew their own vegetables. In my family, we also had a small vineyard and at least 10 varieties of fruit trees. Life was simple. We didn’t have a car and cycling was our transportation.
Is there a particular dish that connects you to your family or that you ate as a child?
French family desserts are often based on fruits. Our most loved family desserts were seasonal fruit tarts like apple, pear, plum, strawberry and raspberry tarts. Each time I make a fruit tart some family memories come back to me.
What is your go-to dish for a weeknight meal?
Cooking is like a language, and after 47 years of practice I have become quite fluent, and a dish can have dozens of variations, depending on my mood and the ingredients available. On a week night our family food is simple and mostly takes around 30 minutes to prepare. In winter, it is often a soup that includes lots of vegetables and some protein. In summer, it is grilled fish or meat with salad or steamed vegetables.
Why is celebrating cultural diversity important to you?
Life is to be cherished because it’s not permanent. Cultural diversity adds excitement and richness to our life. I love cooking dishes from other countries.
What is your advice to the Aussie 'home cook' when cooking a special meal for others?
For me cooking for a special occasion requires a little rehearsal. I like to practise a special dish or some parts of a special dish two or three times before presenting it to others. I think it's important to be relaxed and confident when preparing a special meal. The secret of becoming a competent cook is to cook new dishes regularly. I suggest everyone learns to cook a new dish every month, then to practise that dish about three times to master it. With this method, you can learn to cook over 100 dishes in 10 years and become a very happy cook.