Chef Eric Frechon of Le Bristol: From Teenage Oyster Shucker to Culinary Genius
In 1993, chef Eric Frechon was awarded Meilleur Ouvrier de France. By the end of 2009 he was named “Chef of the Year” by Le Chef Magazine and received his third Michelin star for the French classic restaurant Epicure at Hotel Le Bristol in Paris. Rarely taking a day off, his appetite for excellence has earned him a “fourth star” for Brasserie 114 Faubourg, also in The Bristol.
After being told he needed to earn his own spending money at the age of thirteen, chef Eric Frechon spent his summers and weekends shucking oysters at a waterfront restaurant in the small coastal fishing village of Treport in Normandy. He set his sights on buying a bicycle with the money earned, but the bigger accomplishment was finding his passion for cooking.
Specializing in classical French cuisine, Chef Frechon has expanded his gastronomy empire with the addition of restaurants Le Mini Palais and Le Lazare in Paris, and as the Chef Patron at Céleste in The Lanesborough Hotel, London.
Priscilla Pilon: Did you have chef mentors during your rise?
Eric Frechon: Everyone I worked under were mentors to me, but Mr. Christian Constant from Hotel Crillon taught me the spirit of the kitchen which puts the products first and I also admire Paul Bocuse because he has been the spokesperson for French cuisine. He was also responsible for exporting classic French dishes to the rest of the world.
What is exciting you these days?
I am so happy to be involved with Céleste in the Lanesborough because London is the place to be right now for the international food scene. I also aspire to open another Lazare.
What trends do you adapt to at Epicure?
Clients come to Epicure from all over the world specifically for classic French dishes so I remain faithful to the style unless I need to adapt the food for allergic reasons. Gluten free is trendy and I do have to provide diners options, but my best dishes are the ones that are not changed. We have so many international hotel guests from Asia who are sensitive to salt so I make sure to provide lower levels for them. And, of course at Le Bristol we also serve room service and must cater to guests who are jetlagged and want options more close to their nationality.
What are your favorite dishes?
Each season I prefer to work with fresh products. One of my favorites is rabbit with foie gras and truffles. It is a very special dish where we take our time to prepare. I start with making sure we have the freshest meat in season, and then that it is delicately peeled [skinned] and finally we make sure it is cooked perfectly. It is cooked for at least 36 hours. It is the most intricate dish we make and I think it is like creating Haute Couture fashion to get it flawless.
Another product I like to cook with is Merlan (Whiting fish). Although it is a common fish, I have worked with it for a very long time to ensure that it is always special and accompany it with fresh vegetables and sauce that enhances the dish without overpowering the delicate texture.
The most fun dish is the stuffed macaroni with black truffle, artichoke and duck foie gras and topped with mature Parmesan cheese.
Priscilla’s Notes: Although Mr. Frechon was more comfortable with an interpreter, he was much more eloquent with his English than I am with my French so it was an easy task to interview him. Gastronomy accomplishments notwithstanding, it is his sprit that impressed me the most. I suspect the genius chef who almost never takes a day off of work, but who still has a twinkle in his eye, owes his continued enthusiasm in the kitchen to his fond childhood memories of falling in love with food along the shores of Normandy.