The Invisible Chef Mark French
Chef French has quite a background. He began his cooking experience at boarding school at the age of thirteen, where being a prep cook got me out of the more tedious tasks. In his high school years he worked part time as a bus boy and prep cook. After graduation he moved to England and worked in restaurants. After a year, he returned to California and worked in a coffee shop cook.
Over the next three years heI gained quite a following (at a coffee shop!), and pretty much mastered basic cooking skills and restaurant management. He decided to find more challenging surroundings. The next four years found him working in a variety of eating establishments, such as Santa Anita racetrack, where he learned garnishing and sauces. He even taught classes in garnishing in his spare time. Soon he felt experienced enough to make food his career choice, and hired on at Scandia's, a wonderful Five-Star restaurant in Beverly Hills.
Starting as line cook, he quickly worked my way into the #2 position, the Sous Chef. After a couple of years he struck out on his own and worked as a personal chef for a royal Saudi family. He thought it was great having an unlimited budget, and gained a lot of experience with exotic foods, as well as catering large parties. He also worked for the two owners of Geoffrey's of Malibu, where he eventually signed on as the day chef.
After firmly establishing himself in the California restaurant scene he took over a couple of gourmet restaurants (Rive Gauche and Vincent Hill Station), whose business doubled in one year. Soon he found himself doing the same thing as before, so his brother, wife and he built a catering company, French Brothers Epicurean Adventures.
To escape California's breakneck pace, he and his wife moved to Arizona and took all of their collected recipes with them.. As his neighbors began steadily gaining weight from our Epicurean adventures, he thought it might be fun to share his thirty years' worth of recipe collecting. He put together a unique cookbook on CD that features many of his favorite dishes while working as a professional chef.
Reluctant Gourmet's Interview
Did you cook growing up?
Yes, because my parents where both busy professionals and many times I was left fending from myself and my brother.
What made you decide you would become a professional cook?
I just knew I wanted to cook from a very early age. I enjoy seeing people happy after eating and what better medium than food, which we take for granted, is their?
Would you do it again?
Yes, but I would probably have apprenticed in Europe first though.
Best piece of advice you would give a home enthusiast?
Experiment with ingredients, have fun and enjoy creating meals that reflect your enthusiasm for the finer things in life. You only really need a recipe when you bake i.e. pastries, breads etc.
Best cooking tip for a novice?
Don't get discouraged if you make a mistake, we all have and you learn from doing. Also, remember that you are not working with constants, by this I mean, each foodstuff, including meats, vegetables and dairy products are slightly different and the art of cooking is to make it taste the same.
The Mandolin. This is one of those expensive toys that has many different uses once you know what they are.
Funniest kitchen incident?
That's a hard one; I guess when I first started cooking in a kitchen one maintenance persons blew himself out of an oven while lighting it, fortunately the only injury to the man was his dignity and loss of facial hair.
Favorite food to cook with?
Duck, because it's one of those meats that most people think of as a holiday treat, but it's not. It's very versatile. You can find breast steaks as well as whole ducks year round in most supermarkets.
When at home, what do you like to eat?
Simple foods such as a good steak, fresh salads or a cheeseburger.
Thanks for the interview - RG