Interview with Jocelyn Herland, Executive Chef at Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse

Interview with Jocelyn Herland, Executive Chef at Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse
After working with Alain Ducasse for many years, Chef Jocelyn Herland joined the Parisian palace hotel Le Meurice in 2016 as executive chef at Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse, where he expertly interprets Ducasse’s signature cuisine. Bonjour Paris caught up with Herland to find out more about what inspires his cooking, his expert tips for creating great food at home, and his favorite Paris haunts. BP: Can you tell us a bit more about how you came to be where you are today, and what inspired you to follow a career in gastronomy? JH: It’s rather a vocation, as I have no one in the family who works in the food industry. It came from the pleasure of hosting; my grandparents liked to make well-made meals, with good wines, and it was the kindness and generosity that emanated from these moments that made me want to participate, starting by cooking two-three very basic dishes. Receiving nice compliments each time also made me want to pursue cooking as a career. This was all at around the age of 8/10, but I still followed a classical school curriculum– at the request of my parents– until the baccalaureate. It was only after obtaining my baccalaureate that I embarked on a cooking course, obtaining certificates in cooking and baking. I went into the job much later than most people do, which allowed me to develop a maturity that others did not have. I have arrived where I am today there thanks to the people I have met; indeed I have been with the Dorchester Collection for years, since 2003. It’s also thanks to the people I have met, and of course to Alain Ducasse, with whom I love working. What is your earliest memory of food, and do you have any dishes from childhood that you still love to eat now? My grandmother’s stuffed tomatoes, which sadly I could never reproduce exactly. She also made an incredible rice salad, I couldn’t reproduce that either, and I never found this particular taste again. With all of your knowledge and experience, can you share any secrets with our readers for cooking at home? Maybe tips on something most of us get wrong, or something that you have learned working in the industry which is also great advice for amateur cooks? ORGANIZATION – you must organize yourself. So, if you have lunch with your family on a Sunday afternoon, start the day before, and do your shopping in a relaxed manner and not in a hurry. I like to take my time, finding inspiration directly from the shops or the markets, deciding on the menu after doing the shopping. Let yourself be guided by what you are in the mood for. Also, choose your products well. When cooking in advance you have the time to work out the details. Know to take time, and to take pleasure. For entertaining guests at home, how can our readers elevate a meal from every day to something special? By the seasoning, which is the element of surprise, for example rocket, or lemon – there is no need for extraordinary products. Also, you can focus on the presentation to create astonishment and surprise. What is your own specialty dish when cooking at home? For a while, my wife kept asking me for my raspberry soufflet, and many of my friends too… As far as savory dishes, I change it up a lot, there is not really a recurring dish. Actually, yes, maybe the pasta gratin that I do for my son, a pasta gratin with mushrooms / ham / black truffles, with a béchamel sauce to bring it all together and baked with a nice portion of emmental cheese. The philosophy at Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse, where you are executive chef, is to use the freshest and seasonal produce to create the finest cuisine. Why do you think it is so important for both restaurants and consumers to buy local and seasonal ingredients? How does this affect the meal, and also the food industry? Seasonal products are of course essential! We cannot expect that a product will be good all year round. It is already hard to find a beautiful strawberry, or a beautiful tomato in season, but if we are out of season it is even harder… we can not make good cuisine without good products. Local is good too, but we have to face the truth – it is complicated in big cities. Important to source regionally. In England, in London, I had extraordinary products. We are already raising the quality of our dishes by respecting the seasonality of our products. The sourcing of products is key, it is a partnership, a marriage. Are there any other French chefs you admire, or who inspire your work? The chefs who inspired me are first and foremost those with whom I have worked, Jean Marie Meulien when I was an apprentice, and Christophe Moret, Jean François Piège, and Alain Ducasse for the sauces, the respect for the products, and for the sourcing. I have been following Alain Ducasse for 19 years now and he continues to inspire me: his motivation, his passion, his desire to discover – it is incredible. But also chefs with whom I have not necessarily worked, but who you cannot help but respect. Mr. Pacaud at restaurant L’Ambroisie is low-key, but chefs like him have made their mark on history. Also, dynamic young chefs like Chef Akrame, who is someone very energetic, enthusiastic, very modern, and who tries things. Pierre Sang-Boyer, who is totally in tune with the times and has been able to develop his business with quality restaurants. People who are ambitious, who are positive – I like this positive attitude – who are curious, and respectful. It’s important…

Lead photo credit : Chef Jocelyn Herland in the kitchen. Photo: Le Meurice

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Nicola Leigh Stewart is a travel journalist who after living in London and Madrid has finally settled in Paris. She now spends her weekends exploring France to report on the best luxury hotels and must-visit destinations. You can follow her travels and experiences on Instagram @nicolaleighstewart.