Yves Mattagne, the world-renowned chef of Belgium's two Michelin-starred La Villa Lorraine, is no stranger to India. After having enthralled gourmands of the country with his delicate creations, he was back in the country again, in November, as a part of the Rendezvous series. This time, he curated an exceptional menu featuring dishes infused with his signature finesse and inspirations from global yet seasonal flavours. We spoke to him about what inspires him, his favourite ingredients and more. Here are excerpts from our chat.
How did your interest in culinary arts develop Did you always want to be a chef
My interest in cooking developed at a very young age when I was just eight years old. My aunt had a restaurant, which I often visited and spent endless hours there. I spent most of my holidays in that kitchen, exploring different ingredients and learning so much.
What inspires you and your cooking
My childhood experiences and memories of what we used to eat at home inspire me a lot. Apart from that, my travels across the globe also influence my creations. Discovering the different cuisines of different countries is very rewarding. I love dining at the typical local restaurants where I can experience the region's traditional cuisine.
Photo Credits Yves Mattagne / LinkedIn
Chef Yves Mattagne
Over the years, the culinary scape has evolved significantly, with more focus on hyperlocal produce. How do you see this trend developing in the future
For me, ingredients are the most important. We pay attention to everything in our kitchen at La Villa Lorraine, from their quality and availability to how they are sourced. At the same time, we are also very conscious of the carbon footprint our operations generate.
Even while working with Chef Arun Sundararaj at the Taj Mahal, New Delhi, for the Rendezvous at the Chambers, we realised that we share a common love for ingredients and are passionate about exploring the unique combinations that we can create. By working as much as possible with our local products and producers, we can help this trend gain more momentum.
What's that one cuisine or culinary tradition from a specific country that has left an indelible mark on you
Since I have had the chance to visit and discover different countries and cultures, it can be challenging to choose simply one. Everywhere I have travelled, I have found inspiration and emotions in various ingredients, dishes or traditions native to that place. I have worked fabulously with Chef Arun in the Taj Mahal, Delhi, and Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai. I am taking back great memories from this experience.
How would you describe the philosophy you approach cooking and, broadly, food
It is essential to always work with premier products and ingredients to respect the dish and add a personal creative touch. I always focus on offering an emotional experience through food.
Is there any specific ingredient from India or elsewhere that is your absolute favourite
I love the spices available in India. There is such a big canvas of flavours and possibilities. In Belgium, Chicon is an ingredient that takes me back to my childhood. Every autumn and winter, I include it in our menu.