Baking tins full of tempura prawns, neatly aligned chicken breasts with dollops of butter, light brown croutons, and the smell of mustard leaf veloute simmering in sauce pans; a sight (and scent) of wonder for any food loving individual. Led by Michelin star French chefs, Ms. Emilie Theurant and Mr. Jules Thorens, the classical French cuisine lunch organized at Silver Mountain Hotel Management School was attended by Mr. Yves Carmona, French ambassador to Nepal, along with 20 other distinguished guests.
This five-course meal focused on traditional french recipes that utilized various ingredients like mustard, egg, Parmesan cheese, apple, prawns, vegetable roots, prawn, chicken, potatoes, fresh cream, and chocolates with a touch of haute cuisine. The two chefs led the kitchen of stressed out students to replicate the dishes created by them and have them ready to be served to the dignitaries in a limited time window. Over the diplomatic chatter of the hungry guests outside, the pressure inside the kitchen was a stark contrast. The language barrier between the chefs and the students was evident, but with like minds at work, the dishes were soon rolling out smoothly. Paired with french wine and champagne sponsored by the Vesper House, the food disappeared as quickly as they were served. Finishing off the course with a cheese platter and tatin tart, the proof that a full stomach is a happy stomach was evident in the laughter and cheery voices of the guests.
Kathmandu Foodies sat down later with both chefs to talk to them about their work and experience in Nepal.
Your reasons for becoming a chef?
Emilie: I actually worked for the food industry as a nutritionist and also studied nutrition since I was fifteen. I wanted to become a food scientist. But after I began working, I realized I was making mass produced chicken nugget-like food for mass consumption and that was not what I wanted.
For me, food is about health, nature, and love, and the food industry didn’t follow this philosophy. This is why I decided to start cooking. ~Emilie Theurant
Jules: My family has run a restaurant for over three generation called La Chamade and ever since I was young, I have had a passion for cooking. I was always running around the kitchen, smelling the food and tasting everything. So I decided that I would become a chef so as to take over the restaurant after my father retires.
I began internships at three Michelin star restaurants since the age of 15 and have had quite a few internships and jobs since then including Hôtel The Peninsula Paris.
Emilie: That is where we met! (giggles)
Describe your style of cooking.
Emilie: My cooking is based around gluten-free, vegetarian, and healthy foods. I tend to use plenty of vegetables, fresh herbs, and spices to give it a twist. You can do almost anything with vegetables actually and with the variety of different vegetables we find in France, there is so much more we can still create.
Jules: My style is largely traditional since I grew up with those basics and have perfected them over years. However, I also focus on transposing traditional french recipes with modern cuisine for a fine dining experience.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Emilie: I am primarily inspired by traditional french cuisine because all the basics and techniques essential for french food can be found in them. Alongside, before becoming a vegan, I loved chicken dishes and would try to replicate them, but by using vegetables as a substitute for the meat. So it was a process of trying to get the volume and texture to feel like chicken but only that it would be a cauliflower or some other vegetable.
I also find inspiration from American and traditional french chefs, who generally use a lot of meat in their recipes but I observe their plating as well as their ingredients to learn more and make something of my own.
Jules: I find a lot of inspiration from the farmer’s markets that happen very often in France. We used to go quite often and talk to the farmers who would give us fresh vegetables from their farms and would ask us to make something new from these fresh vegetables.
Living in the countryside and along mountains is another inspiration as we had access to a lot of fresh raw vegetables, herbs, mushrooms and flowers that we could use immediately from the family garden. Also, all grandmothers are good cooks and an inspiration for me (grins).
What have you been doing in Nepal?
Emilie: The life here in Nepal is so completely different from the life back in France! Kathmandu is very crowded compared to Paris but we love the energy that the city has.
We also had a chance to go on a trek to the Everest region and it was so beautiful. The mountains were so high for us! And the people here are THE nicest people in the world! Honestly.
We also stayed in a village for a week and that taught us quite a huge lesson about living life simply. It was surprising to see people with nothing cooking food over a fire (which we as Michelin star chefs couldn’t do!) and yet they were so content and happy with life.
So what about Nepali food?
Emilie: We love it! (laughs) Ask him! (pointing to Jules)
Jules: Dal bhat! Momo! (grins widely)
I love Nepali food because it is so simple but you still need skill to cook it since there are so many spices involved. Even the dal bhat has so many different flavors on one plate. In France, there is a maximum of three different flavors in a plate but here there are so many.
Emile: It helps that we love rice! And the momos..the momos are so so good.
Few rules of french cooking from Emilie and Jules :
1: Everything goes with gravy. So serve gravy. Chicken gravy, vegetable gravy, any gravy.
2: Butter, butter, and butter.
3: Can’t go wrong with cheese and bread.
4: Always use big pieces of meat.