“A dish reaches its completion when people are enjoying it”
Pascal Barbot, the chef of Astrance, is a culinary tsunami, inundating his diners with surprising flavors.
“There are thousands of ways to prepare food: cold, sugared, salted, sous-vide, grilled, smoked, double-cooked, wok-fried, in vinegar...” Pascal Barbot’s descriptions become strikingly specific when he starts imagining new dishes. “I have a vast knowledge of food products,” he admits, “which makes it much simpler to integrate them into my cuisine.” The flavors, colors and sensations are unmistakable — judicious and well-balanced, surprising but never bizarre, conceived to pique our curiosity and appetites.
I don’t seek to be creative,” Barbot adds. “I’m just trying to transcribe my background and experience.” Now in his forties, the chef has accumulated a veritable database of gustatory revelations and discoveries that enrich his cuisine. As a teenager, he traveled while learning his profession, discovering ingredients like vanilla, mango, papaya, coconut, Asian fish sauce, soy sauce, marinated fish, Tahitian-style tuna, bat sun-roasted on a stone in New Caledonia… It’s no wonder that today Pascal Barbot is a culinary tsunami, inundating his diners with sensations.
“Cuisine isn’t about talent — it’s about work, instinct, the product. It’s about making people the priority and respecting our cooks and growers.”
“Cuisine isn’t about talent — it’s about work, instinct, the product,” he insists. “It’s about making people the priority and respecting our cooks and growers.” But Barbot does indeed have talent. He has made Astrance, which he opened in Paris in 2000 with fellow Arpège veteran Christophe Rohat, one of the finest restaurants in the world. Fifty meals a day, four days a week, with no menu other than his creativity and inspiration.
The “surprise menu,” once an audacious gamble and now a widespread trend, was Barbot’s idea. He sees it as a necessity in order to work freely with perfect ingredients, which of course means adapting to the seasons and availability. “Our luxury is to offer each diner a personalized experience,” he emphasizes.
His tiny kitchen (only a few square meters, but that’s just how he likes it) is a scene of non-stop action. In this experimental laboratory, the dishes are fine-tuned, reworked or dreamed up depending on the ingredients available and the desires of the diners — many of them Barbot’s friends, whom he can watch through the window giving onto the dining room. “The main thing in cuisine, besides the ingredients,” he says, “is the cooking time, the seasoning and the carving.” Building on these three dimensions, everything lives up to a simple rule: “A dish reaches its completion when people are enjoying it.”