Portrait of our Chef Aurélien Bouygues
Nurtured by the delicate fragrance of the food prepared by his mother and grandmother, Aurélien Bouygues discovered his love of fine dining early on in life. By the age of 12, the Chef was already taking his place at the family’s stove, concocting dishes for young and old.
When he was 15 years old, Aurélien Bouygues began an apprenticeship in a family restaurant. He then spent two-and-a-half years working for Claude Marco La Magdeleine, at the same time obtaining his first vocational certificate in catering. Aged 18, he began working for Chef Christian Parras in Urt near Bayonne. Aurélien, working in Christian Parras’ kitchen as commis de cuisine, was greatly influenced by the charismatic chef. Aurélien then held the same position in a 2-star restaurant in Toulouse for a year before going back to Le Pas de l’Ours in Switzerland and working there, again as chef de partie, for four years. . His long stay in Nouméa enabled him to expand and perfect his knowledge of food preparation while learning every aspect of restaurant management.
His best professional memory from the restaurant business
When anybody mentions the Pas de l’Ours restaurant, Aurélien smiles. It has given him his fondest memories. Supported by a dynamic staff, the Chef remembers the warm, convivial atmosphere in the kitchen. He also enjoyed meeting staff members away from work, a sign of the real, sincere cooperation that was reflected in everything they did and in the food that they served.
Aurélien’s time as a judge on the “Match en cuisine” TV programme is another of the Chef’s happiest memories. His contact with the the competitors not only developed his sense of observation and precision; he also discovered that he enjoyed sharing, teaching and assessing knowledge.
Which chef do you admire?
The talent, career path and charismatic personality of two chefs: De Courten and Reynaud. They have inspired and influenced Aurélien Bouygues throughout his career.
If you were invited to eat in a restaurant run by a great Chef, which one would it be?
Michel Guérard’s restaurant in Eugénie-les-Bains was the first 3-star restaurant in which our Chef had a meal. Going back there would give him a chance to see how the restaurant has developed – and to savour a few happy memories.
How did you design your menu for the Vatel restaurants?
For La Brasserie Vatel, I wanted to offer at least one cold starter with foie gras and one hot with ravioli and a creamy velouté. Hot dishes with ingredients drawn from land and sea satistfy all tastes so the restaurant serves white and red meat, offal and fish.
When it comes to dessert, I like to create a sense of indulgence so the dessert trolley is filled with a rainbow assortment of colours.
At the Bistro, I suggest deconstructed daily dishes on a theme, based on the tastes and fragrances of South-Western France.
How do you see your career developing at Vatel?
My work at Vatel Bordeaux enables me to create a concept that meets the desires and requirements of the clientele in Bordeaux while at the same time managing the opening of a new restaurant.
The international dimension and educational aspects of the restaurant also attracted me here. Passing my knowledge on to international students goes hand-in-hand with the way I see my profession.
What’s your favourite dish?
As far as French gourmet food is concerned, I’m particularly fond of frogs’ legs and snails with parsley butter. Internationally, I’ve never lost my love of the traditional Spanish Fideua.
On the other hand, is there anything you just cannot eat?
As a chef, I’m curious by nature and ready to taste specialities from any countries. However, eggs don’t rate very highly with me.
Which world cuisine fascinates you?
I was able to take a look at Japanese and Vietnamese cuisine while working in Nouméa, in the prestigious “Le Méridien” hotel. I see Asian cuisine as varied, delicate, unusual and innovative and it’s worth going back to again and again.
How do you see the food of the future?
My style of cooking is always based on an ecological approach, to showcase local and seasonal produce. “Nothing’s wasted. Everything can be used!” I believe that the future of fine dining is to be found in our gardens. From animal farming to the growing of fruit and vegetables, it was my grandparents who gave me my love of “direct cuisine”. Catching a fish in a nearby lake, coming home through the woods and picking a few mushrooms on the way then going into the cellar to collect a few potatoes is, in my opinion, the simplest and, more importantly, the healthiest way of making delicious, authentic food that is full of flavour and steeped in history.
I think that restaurants offering a single menu also have a bright future ahead of them.
Which products do you cook best?
I can be particularly creative and imaginative with foie gras as the star of a meal. Roasted with curaçao or Manzana, raw or pan-fried, this speciality from South-West France is my signature product. I also enjoy cooking fish in all its forms.