“My grandmother put this fish to dry in the cellar, in case of a hard blow”

VSTwo-starred Parisian hef for ten years, Thierry Marx stands out for his scientific approach to cooking. In addition to being at the head of bakery and street food brands, he has just inaugurated a brasserie in the Eiffel Tower.

“Mackerel is a childhood memory, even if I can’t talk about family gastronomic heritage: my parents filled a cart once a week, it had to be practical above all. With my grandmother, who also raised me, I was a flexitarian before my time: she went to the market in Ménilmontant, and established a weekly plan according to what she found. We often ate mackerel because she considered it healthy. She put them out to dry in the cellar with a little pepper, then smoked them over beech wood. There was always mackerel and potatoes in case of a hard blow.

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When you’re a chef, you build yourself first in someone else’s kitchen. I was trained at Taillevent and Robuchon, my first menus only copied what I had seen there: pigeon, lobster… noble products that symbolized French haute cuisine in my eyes. The rest was for the poor, where I came from, and I didn’t necessarily want to go back. At the end of the 1980s, when I had a star in Montlouis-sur-Loire, in Indre-et-Loire, Patrice de Nussac, the director of Gault & Millau, criticized me: “Good chef, but who remakes the eternal frozen nougat seen at Taillevent and Robuchon.” He said that I was not capable of inventing anything new. I was offended like a louse.

Added value

So I tried something else, I started mackerel. It lowered my cost of raw materials and it forced me to remember what I had learned in Japan: cooking is about adding value to simple products. And it’s true that putting caviar on a langoustine does not give much.

Chef Thierry Marx photographed on June 8, 2016 at the Mandarin Oriental.

What I also understood over time is that you can’t be creative without having been a bookworm. Knowing the product is not telling the story of a small producer, we all know how to do that… but knowing what the product is made of, at what temperature it will cook, when I will have hydrolysis. In 2004, I created a research and development lab with Harvard, I replaced recipe books with test books. I took full the mouth of it until 2010, one treated me of gravedigger of the gastronomy.

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