Michel Bras on Homeland and How to Treat Cooks

By

Sean Kenniff
Michel Bras on the ICC Main Stage, assisted by Iacopo Falai — Day 3 ICC, Brooklyn, NY
Michel Bras on the ICC Main Stage, assisted by Iacopo Falai — Day 3 ICC, Brooklyn, NY

And on the third day, Michel made salad. As the final ICC presenter walked out onto the Main Stage—preceded by a rolling table of exquisite vegetables supplied by Dan Barber—the audience stood and applauded. There was an air of awe and excitement as legendary chef Michel Bras began to speak. You could hear an haricot vert drop. Bras touched on the importance of having a homeland, how to treat your kitchen crew, and also, pure happiness (subjects he will elaborate on in a forthcoming book). In case you weren't there for this special ICC moment, here's the message Bras delivered to attendees and chefs everywhere.

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It is an honor to be invited here.

I am a man attached to the specific values the land can offer. No matter what, powerful bonds connect one to his or her homeland, familiar countrysides and villages. No matter what education or life can bring you later on, no matter what you think, a homeland is a part of oneself—of one’s spirit.

Traditional cuisines find their inspiration in everyday life. They come directly from the earth and the climate. Habits are born; a daily gesture, transmitted from one generation to the next.

Those cuisines, just as mine in Aubrac, have been ongoing and we receive them in the most natural, organic tradition, coming from the most sincere place. They are wise, they make sense, they are rigorous, they thrive when they find a balance between all those elements. The magic of those delicious expressions comes from the very little forbidden things they allow themselves to do, thinking out of the box and breaking with trends.

The necessary expresses itself through perfectly toned and delicious dishes. The real luxury.

I invite every men and women to this reflexion, every cook at a time when our very own identity tends to disappear. Indeed, the road may be longer, but the outcome is much brighter and greater.

Listen to your land. Let it take you away. Dream. Rich from Nature, make your own luck.

Jobs in food are undergoing a tremendous change. It is not always easy to know what to do. But lets not forget that our job is to feed the body and the soul. Please be careful to never let technique take over what your job really is about: to fry, to broil, to cook … to break the bread. Oh how I love those foods filled with emotion that come from the heart, not science.

Because everyone can cook. All you need is a little method and training. But being a chef is another thing. Another state of mind where you breath, listen to your land, and know your duties. Then everything comes from this very first dream.

And in that spirit, please always remember that to cook is to share. It is to love. The table is a place to meet. We gather around for the greatest parties and the least pleasant occasions. We have the most beautiful profession in the world because we offer pure happiness.

Our passions are born from a community. They gather our suppliers, our clients along with our coworkers. Yes, our coworkers because without them, what we express would be very bland.

I may highlight a slightly polemical topic, but between two companies equally qualified, the best one is the one that focuses on men and women first. Also, to share is to allow men and women who are with us every day to thrive.

How sad it is to see so many colleagues use their power to abuse coworkers. They prevent them from having the time they need to discover, feed their mind, and learn from the land. They prevent them from living.

Please have the respect to gather a team, well rested and full of energy, which will give the best of itself to welcome and to cook.

I hope to see you again.

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