Christophe Pelé (Le Clarence): pleasure above all
He trained with the greatest, such as Bruno Cirino, and managed to transform a neighborhood bar into a 2-star restaurant in just two years. The restaurant Le Clarence is located at the famous Clarence Dillon domain.
What attracted you to a career as a chef?
When I was 15, my family moved to Tours and I lost my bearings. I dropped out of school and decided to quit. Very greedy and very manual, I loved life in the kitchen. I then tried my luck in the restaurant business, without knowing that I would make it my profession. I started to work in brasseries, restaurants, etc. I was doing well, and I had a lot of fun. I was doing well, but I lacked stability. Something was bothering me. It all clicked when I was 25 years old. I seized the opportunity to go to Paris and rub shoulders with the best. My meeting with Bruno Cirino changed me completely. I discovered a relationship with the product, a way of working that was very intense, but very human. From then on, I knew I would make a career out of it.
“This desire to please people drives our profession. But when cooking becomes mechanical, it is necessary to take a step back.”
What do you like most about cooking?
I mainly feel emotion, mixed with the desire to please the customers and to please myself. A jaded character has no place in the kitchen. The place lends itself, on the contrary, to deploying all its energy, to expressing itself with its guts and especially to experiencing sensations. Impalpable at first glance, the intensity and emotion are strong during the tasting. This desire to please people drives our profession. But when cooking becomes mechanical, it is necessary to take a step back. So, after my career at La Bigarrade, I had to stop. I was drawing on my physical resources; the desire and pleasure were lacking. So I took a 6 month break and resumed a normal family life. Above all, I reserved some time for myself, a luxury that is unattainable when you practice the profession of a cook. This allowed me to recharge my batteries, to rekindle the flame and to start again with the right intensity, first as a consultant for several restaurants in Paris and one in Hong Kong, and then as Deputy General Manager and Executive Chef of Le Clarence restaurant.
How do you feel about the current health crisis?
Since the rooms remain empty, we offer take-away service or deliveries. Cooking in front of a full restaurant or in front of bags with names changes our job enormously. Before, I used to walk around among the guests, to capture the emotion, feel the energy present, and then transpose it to the kitchen. Today, of course, the energy and pressure have taken a back seat, but a new way of approaching our job is required. We now put ourselves even more in the customer's shoes. How will the food arrive at his home? How can he or she prepare it ideally, without too much effort, to enjoy it and have a good time? Our job is similar to that of a caterer. For the moment, we are enjoying this new challenge. Will it keep us entertained for long? I don't know.
But this break allows us to think about other projects, to consider new types of business, to keep a little more time for ourselves and our family. The crisis offers positive aspects, if we want to see them.