Top chef Pierre Gagnaire takes time to build relationship with staff
Voted best chef in the world by Le Chef magazine this year, Pierre Gagnaire does not rest on his laurels as he makes multiple visits to his 15 fine-dining restaurants spread across four continents each year. Travelling between Paris, Berlin, London, Las Vegas, Dubai, Hong Kong and Tokyo, no one day is alike for Gagnaire.
"Time is something that is abstract," he says, as we take tea in his restaurant Pierre in the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong that he established in 2006.
"It's difficult to manage my time. I was in Las Vegas last week, so I woke up at 7am and immediately called France because it's around 4 o'clock there and London as it's 3 o'clock. It's necessary to talk to my team in Paris and after that I do sports. I run every few days as it's important. I sometimes eat too much or I eat too late and it's good for the brain to alleviate stress."
In Hong Kong, Gagnaire's schedule changes due to the time differences with Europe, but he still manages to do emails and running in the morning.
However, he does not worry too much if he doesn't catch up with his teams. "Sometimes I am tired and it's not necessary to talk to people. I don't get stressed if I haven't done it. I have passion, I am obsessed with my work and when you are in one place, you want to manage a problem immediately, but when you are travelling, you put the problem over there and come back to it later when you have the solution. With travelling, you must manage your life like that."
The 65-year-old, who was one of the first chefs to embrace the idea of food as art, says the reason he travels is to keep a good relationship with his restaurant staff.
"I love each restaurant. I love the people who work there - the goal is the relationship that I try to create with them," he says. "And when I come, I am not a stranger to them because I stay one week, sometimes more, so that we have time to create a relationship because in the end the key [to success] is the team. It's the people who work there - on the floor, in the kitchen and the management of the hotel. The quality of the management is important because I must understand the company but they must understand me. They must understand my philosophy, my way to work."
Gagnaire only spends a few weeks a year at home. "I am lucky with my wife. She has her own life. It's not easy. I started to do this when I was 54. I think if you are 30, it's dangerous because you are young, you have kids and you are not ready to forget your home - it's dangerous for your private life."
The way people eat has changed through time, as Gagnaire observes. "People love to experiment - one day Italian, one day Chinese, one day Indian. Before, eating out was an event; now it isn't as they have no time to eat at home. [With fine dining], the people who work in the kitchen are now more clever, more dedicated, more educated, and there is the pressure of the press and of the awards. I have the opportunity to create many stories with my own product. It's creative. All my restaurants are totally different, but that's my style." TF
"The watch [I am wearing] means a lot to me because it was a gift from Le Chef forvoting me the best chef in January."