Curator of the France Box Chef Christophe Schmitt is an acclaimed French chef who’s best known for his achievements at Le Diane, where he led the restaurant to a highly acclaimed Michelin star. He’s cooked in a multitude of restaurants throughout the country and garnered praise at each establishment. Here, he talks to Try The World about his new venture in the south of France and his path to becoming an acclaimed French cook.
When we first started working with you, you were the Executive Chef of Le Diane in Paris. What are you up to now?
I’ve just moved to a restaurant called L’Almandin, which is in Saint Cyprien in the south of France. The restaurant is in the Ile de la Lagune hotel. It’s a five star hotel near the Spanish border and it’s only been a week since I’ve been there!
Wow! What a big change. Do you miss Paris?
I was working in Paris for 7 years and I’m originally from Strasbourg, so I consider Paris as one of many stops on my travels. And I’m excited to get some sun in the south!
That sounds wonderful. What are your plans for the new restaurant?
I want to be inspired by the region. The restaurant is near Catalonia, so I’ll let those ingredients inspire me. In France, there are specific ingredients and specific ways to use them that are distinct in each region. We have a heritage and a sense of place in each region, so I want to be inspired by my surroundings.
You certainly have an incredible sense for each region’s specialties. How did you first become interested in cooking?
No one in my family works in the industry. But when I was very young, my parents would take me to great restaurants. This gave me a taste for good food and good ingredients. I also have an aunt and a grand mother who cook very well, and already when I was very young, I would join them in the kitchen to taste what they were preparing.
It sounds like you were born to be a cook!
Yes! I actually have a notebook from elementary school where I had written down that I wanted to become a chef when I grew up. We had to write down the job we wanted to have later in life, and I wrote down “a chef”! Then, when I was still in high school, I transferred to a hospitality school and I was lucky enough to apprentice in a Michelin-starred restaurant in Strasbourg. It was called Le Crocodile, and at the time, it was run by Monsieur Hugues, who was the chef. Eventually, after many stops in other restaurants around the country, I became the chef at Le Diane and won several competitions. These past years were definitely very intense. They were my formative years as a chef and the first time that many people were tasting my food. It was amazing!
Wow, what an incredible career path!
Yes, I mean it’s definitely the type of job where it’s important to work with the right people—people who share with you their passion for cooking, for hard work, and for beautiful ingredients. I’ve met great people along the way.
Throughout all these years in various kitchens around the country, how have you developed your own style of cuisine?
There are a few things that really define my cooking: I love beautiful ingredients. I never incorporate more than three flavors into one dish. I don’t like it when there’s too much mixed in the plate. I like it when the plates are free, and there’s a natural, vegetal aspect to the dish.
Have you ever been interested in other types of cuisine besides French?
I love Asian food—it’s definitely something that fascinates me. I’ve discovered beautiful products while traveling there. Sometimes I like to incorporate little touches of their cuisine, like the stocks they make are very interesting.
Any favorite products from the France Box?
I love the chestnut cream. I keep it in the refrigerator and eat it at night with cheese! La Mère Poulard is also a classic.
Note: This interview was translated from French.