Club Gascon’s Pascal Aussignac on why he’d like to live in Lisbon, discovering new ingredients in Chinatown and what to do if you burn yourself in the kitchen.
Pascal Aussignac made a big splash on the London restaurant scene when he opened Club Gascon in Smithfields in 1998, winning acclaim for cooking inspired by the culinary traditions of his native Gascony. He is now the co-owner of a small fleet of French restaurants across the capital, but Club Gascon remains the flagship, garnering a Michelin star and numerous other accolades. We caught up with Aussignac to ask him ten key questions.
Where do you eat out?
I don’t enjoy intimate restaurants. If it’s a special occasion, such as an anniversary, I much prefer a grand setting like that at The Wolseley, where the service and the grand decor blow you away. Otherwise, I like The Modern Pantry. The terrace outside makes it feel like a continental café. There are very few places where you can sit out and, to my mind, that’s the only thing that’s missing in London. I like sitting still with some food and watching the world pass by in slow motion.
What is your favourite cookbook and why?
Mine [Cuisinier Gascon]! The thing is I’ve got hundreds of recipe books linked to my main focus, the cuisine of Gascony and Provence, alone. I can visualise the books on the shelves. Most of the books I have are from chefs who are dedicated to this kind of cuisine. It would be hard to choose one.
What ingredients do you always have to hand?
Good pepper and Maldon sea salt. It’s the sort of stuff you use everywhere. I like the crunchiness of the salt, and the smell of the black pepper when you grind it at the last moment onto the meat. Seasoning is the key for any chef.
What is your favourite food shop?
There’s a supermarket in Chinatown called Loon Fung and I always find something new to try there. It’s not my food culture, but I like to try things, to buy things and to find ideas I can use in my own dishes.
What is your favourite food destination?
I really like Lisbon. I would like to live there one day. It’s a city that’s reinventing itself a little bit, like Barcelona a few years ago. There are still things you can do there, and I’d love to move there and maybe reinvent myself and open a boutique hotel.
Do you have a particular food obsession at the moment?
I’m working on the game season right now. Grouse, hare, deer: all these things are coming and it’s a pretty intense season for flavour. Spring and autumn are my two best seasons. Spring is all about grains, and in autumn you get very strong flavours and colours like amber and chocolate. Game is something that featured on an aphrodisiac menu I did for a pop-up this year, and things like oysters and figs are back in season running up to November. Autumn is a good time of year for love, but then all year round is a good time – saffron and peppers in the summer, red wine and steak any time!
Are there any chefs you’re currently excited about?
There are lots of chefs that I admire. I think Simon Rogan at Claridge’s is going to be the next big star, and Alain Ducasse is one of the masters of the world. He has a real vision for food.
Is there anything you never cook?
I will never do rice pudding in any of my places, because I hate it. Just the smell of it makes me feel sick. Don’t invite me for rice pudding, because I won’t like it. In fact, anything that links cereals, milk, and sugar to produce that slimy effect – forget it. I’d cook anything in the world other than that.
Can you give us a cooking tip?
It’s a funny one, but useful. If you burn your fingers while you’re cooking, the very first thing to do is to put the burn on your finger to the bottom of your ear and pinch. You have to do it straight after you are burned; the heat goes from the burn into your ear and after a few seconds you won’t feel it any more. It doesn’t matter how you burned yourself – fat burns, steam burns – or which ear you choose. After 15 years in a kitchen, I promise you that it always works.
Do you grow anything yourself?
I grow some basic herbs. I don’t have a garden, just a small terrace with a conservatory, so I grow rosemary, thyme, sorrel and so on in pots. I live next door to the restaurant, but these herbs are for my own use at home.
Read this article as it originally appeared on Flavourfirst