Chef Michel Troisgros: Simplicity and Refinement, Part 3

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The French chef shares what it’s like to keep the business in the family
Michel Troisgros

Michel Troisgros

“It's wonderful to think that now our family legacy will continue.”

This is the third in a three-part interview with chef Michel Troisgros. You can find the first here, and the second here.

The Daily Meal: Do you feel that for a husband and wife to work together as a team like you do is an advantage in this business?
Chef Michel Troisgros: [Laughing] You must ask her if she thinks that way but for me it is. We are fifty-fifty in this equation and my only advantage is that I am the son of Pierre Troisgros and [laughing] it can give a good impression especially on my visiting card! I have to say since the beginning of our life she has been doing everything and managing everything but the cooking. She was more mature and thinking ahead than I was when we started probably because all women are that way. I am so lucky to have her by my side. I think my Italian grandmother Olympe gave me this heritage of life. In fact I remember her telling me once that I will be lucky in my life. As for me I believe in an old French proverb that says when you don't know that something is impossible, then you do it! ‘Pas qu il n save pas c'est impossible qu'il long fait.’

Where did your love story begin, and when did you start working together?
We met for the first time in class at school in Grenoble. We were both in the same section and course. She was from an area near Valence and we fell in love during that time and then we grew up together in a sense. She loved the hotel business especially, organization and operation, and wanted to travel all over the world. Subsequently every city I traveled to work she worked in a hotel, sometimes in the same house like when I was with Girardet in Lausanne, first in the bar then the delicatessen. When I was at Taillevent in Paris she worked at the hotel reception. When I went to Brussels to work in Comme Chez Soi, she was at the Hilton there and also at the Connaught in London. Though she did not accompany me to California, we were both together in New York at Bloomingdales for Michel Gerard and Petrossian caviar. We have now been together for thirty two years.

What were your plans for your future in those days? Did you want to continue traveling the world?
We were dreaming of Australia next and we had obtained our visas in Paris but then my uncle Jean suddenly passed away at 56 years of age. So we gave up our jobs in Sydney before ever traveling there and came back home. Marie-Pierre and I decided to help my father for a short while and during that time we got married and our daughter Maria was born. Then with a baby your life changes so before we knew it time passed and here we are.

Your sons have joined you in the kitchen now, and where once Guy Savoy apprenticed with your father, your younger son Leo spent a summer in Chef Savoy's kitchens last year. Are you enjoying this new phase of working with the next generation of Troisgros?
I am now in the kitchen with Cesar, my older son who worked at the French Laundry in Napa, as well as with my younger son Leo and we have a lot ahead as a team. I am still young with good health and good energy to continue to create. In the coming years I will work together though right now I am still the creative. Like Michel Bras has done with his son Sebastián there will come a time when I will pass on the reigns to Cesar but for now I am at the helm. We do work more like four hands with the passage of time and though he has his ideas and I have mine, we incorporate our thoughts into a dish. I have my dish and he has his and we have some together. Sometimes one begins a dish and the other one takes it further. At the proper time it is my hope that he will attain superiority in his work and take over. Time will tell.

Will the Troisgros legacy continue when you step back sometime in the future?
My working together with my father before I took over was a very successful process and I hope the same will happen with my sons. Though the period, the time, the economy and the world will be all different from when I was taking over. For a long time after my father Pierre stepped away I was alone in the kitchen and that time I was not sure the boys would follow.

It's wonderful to think that now our family legacy will continue. Life is so short and unpredictable and fifteen years ago I experienced the transmission with my father, and now my sons are in the same process. I always think about transmission in our work and how we impart to one generation, and then right away it begins all over again.

Related Links
Chef Michel Troisgros: Simplicity and Refinement, Part 1An Interview with French Chef Cesar Troisgros: Part 1Parisian Chef David Toutain: ‘That's My Life,’ Part 1An Interview with Bertrand Grebaut of Paris’ Septime, Part 1Three Epic French Chefs Share Secrets with Former NYT Critic

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