The Daily Meal: You worked with Pierre Gagnaire. What did you learn during your time with him?
Chef David Toutain: I learned respect, not to be afraid to do your own food, and when you create something to be proud of it. He is a genius and has been creating wonderful food for over thirty years and is just as strong as ever. Gagnaire is a great example and an inspiration for young chefs who think, “If he did it, I can do it and I just need to believe in myself.” It is hard to be that way though and not everyone appreciates it. You can have people at adjoining tables eat the same dishes and yet their experience is entirely different. Working with him was one of the best experiences of my life and I grew a lot with him. He does not talk much about himself or his work and he does not have to because he is so special and unique. Did you know that he likes to paint? He is a true artist. Artists are special as they impart a different artistic touch to everything that they do.
So should cuisine evoke emotions and affect intellect?
I hope mine does because I try to create that way but I really want the guests to have a good time. Sometimes people comment that, “Wow you have used a lot of techniques!” but I don't want it to be like that. I don't need to explain how long or with what technique I cooked the fish, asparagus, etc. It should be great in taste.
Sometimes menus have such detailed descriptions. What is your opinion about that?
I was never like that with my menus. I like it to say eggs, corn, fish, or whatever ingredient and that is it. Most people just don't need that information and if they want more they will ask questions. We don't have to say that this corn came from this place, then we did this to it and mixed it with this, etc. We can speak for one hour about it but the guest just wants to enjoy the dish with good service.
Service can be very different at each of the fifteen tables here because some people are here for a business lunch while another table came all the way from Tokyo to eat here. You have people coming for different reasons and we have to respect that.
You have traveled and worked in different parts of the world. Is there a city or country that you are partial to?
Truthfully I don't have a particular place that I like more. I am so fortunate to have traveled and visited so many places and I am happy when I leave Paris and even happier when I come back. I was so excited to go to California in March, to Tokyo in August, or to London for a holiday. I am always excited to leave but after I few weeks ready to come home.
What about great meals?
I had amazing food in Japan and then other parts of Asia and China. It was interesting and different, and I love California, and I am also happy when I go to New York. I have friends there, the small hangouts from the days I lived there and some great friends. I have good friends everywhere, even in Copenhagen, as my life has taken me to so many places. My friends David Fischer, Rasmus Kofoed, and Nicolai of Kadeau in Copenhagen for example, and it's wonderful to see them, we eat together and hang out. It's the same in other places so I can't pick a favorite place.