Executive Chef of Pur' at Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme
“I like my cooking to be tasty, genuine and bear my personal stamp.” Dishes served in Pur’ reflect just that philosophy. Jean-François Rouquette arrived at Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme in October 2005 and the management granted him a free hand from the outset. Jean-François wanted to transcend the idea of a classy canteen or an outdated restaurant and offer his clients a cuisine appreciated for its authentic mix, genuine products and the Chef’s commitment: “When I am creative, I seek inspiration from my imagination, my personal roots, my deepest feelings.”
His squab served with turron, green and white beets, caramelised onion sauce and an emulsion of vegetable juice epitomises his vision of gastronomy. “I love starting from contradictory elements and achieving a moving and powerful result » asserts the Chef who knows what he wants. The contrasting propensities of food aim at giving tones and energy to specific dishes and avoiding falling into the trap of imposing purposeless beauty and unwarranted taste. “I like risks and, at the same time, I have to keep in mind my clients,” asserts this Chef who loves rugby and team spirit. It is this way of thinking that led him to replace eggs à la florentine with asparagus à la florentine.
A sense of camaraderie is to be found in his open kitchen and on his table. It is there that each dish is prepared according to the client’s wishes. A way of doing things that is totally his: daring, purposeful and identifiable.
“Culinary work is like a Spanish inn; you find there what you bring to it,” declares Jean-François Rouquette candidly. He loves diversity; a culinary world that is personal, easily identifiable and bears the distinct mark of the Chef. Nothing bores him more than reproducing the soulless passe-partout meals served in posh canteens.
For this Aveyron Chef, whose childhood was spent in his parents’ kitchen near Enghien les Bains, the art of cooking came naturally. When he started his apprenticeship at the age of 17, he wanted to be independent and discover things by himself. After working in many small restaurants outside Paris, he switched to the Crillon, where Jean-Pierre Bonin was in command. “At the time, 90 people worked in the kitchen, the general atmosphere was more like a military camp than that of a family-run café,” he explains. Despite the hardships he endured at the Crillon, he learnt army-like discipline and how to work with high-priced products. He had to make the appropriate gestures, be creative and respect the hierarchy. “After a year of exacting training, we were looked upon as ex-servicemen.”
He stayed there for more than two years and then pursued his formation at Grand Véfour, then at Martinez in Cannes. His was taught a more contemporary cuisine by Christian Willer, a culinary method based on speed, emulsions and infusions. It was a complete turn about for this young Chef, who loved subtle associations and basic colours, and disliked flamboyancy.
Because he was becoming tired of the Riviera, he returned to the Crillon, which was in full mutation and controlled by Christian Constant. Another time, another way of thinking about the art of cooking that left an indelible imprint upon him. The atmosphere was convivial and friendly, and Constant gave the necessary empowerment to his young chefs (Eric Fréchon and Yves Camdeborde). “It was cosy,” remembers Jean-François.
After working beside Constant for two years, he wanted to get away and test his mettle working for a three-star restaurant. He stayed six years at Taillevent and spent his time travelling worldwide promoting its image overseas. This was followed by a final stint at the Crillon, where he was promoted to Assistant-Chef. It was then that he acquired management knowhow.
He was then Chef at Cantine des Gourmets where he could express his cooking style: colourful and light with Mediterranean connotations. Crème brulée foie gras of roasted duck, tuna rhubarb, quasi of veal and chorizo, and scampi with coral vinaigrette were his hallmarks. He mastered the art of low-fat cooking with no cream and no butter, opting instead for light and tasty sauces, and savoury emulsions.
Today, he continues to express himself through original creations, and perseveres in his quest for a creative, audacious and personal cuisine, seeking beauty, authenticity and sensitivity with determination.