Michelin Guide 2024: Eugénie Béziat, “It’s an immense happiness, a recognition”

Monday evening, we celebrated. The excitement linked to this star spreads to the ceremony and in the kitchens of the famous palace on Place Vendôme, the Ritz. Its gourmet restaurant, Espadon, opened its doors only six months ago, after long work coordinated by chef Eugénie Béziat, a visionary who offers a journey between French tradition and her West African roots.

SHE. – What feelings overwhelm you when your name is announced during the Michelin Guide ceremony?

Eugénie Béziat – It was total excitement. The reception from this star was crazy and the evening passed in a flash. I was hoping for a call but I wasn't expecting it. Until the last moment, I told my teams that the Michelin stage was not a given and that we should not expect anything. It’s an immense happiness, a recognition and a spotlight on the work accomplished. I got my first star in 2020, so I'm very happy to confirm with a second. Two stars in his life is incredible. Aside from those close to us, when we return, it is with the team that we share this happiness. It was frustrating that they weren't there, but I knew they were gathered in front of a screen with the ceremony live, like in front of a football match.

SHE. – You are one of the rare chefs who are included in the famous red guide this year. What does being a woman in gourmet cuisine mean to you?

EB – I was lucky not to have any obstacles in the way. I don't wonder if I'm a man or a woman when I receive a star. There is no gender for talent. There is no gender on the plate or in the work. Obviously, I had to find my place, like many male colleagues. Unfortunately, this question of being a woman in the kitchen still arises, looking at the figures. If my journey can inspire young women to pursue this profession, so much the better. The world is changing, for the better I hope, but professional life remains a difficult environment in which you have to be credible, with your peers, with your brigade.

SHE. – Cooking as a career did not come directly to you. How did this turnaround happen?

EB – My parents were epicureans, they loved beautiful cuisine and were sensitive to it. At the age of twenty, I will always tell it, my parents took me to a gourmet restaurant, Hélène Darroze. And it clicked. His cooking brought so many emotions that I wanted to do the same. All this creativity really amazed me. I decided to turn to catering after careful consideration. It's never too late, especially at this age. This passion acquired over the years is all-consuming, growing… it's getting worse and worse… (she says, laughing).

SHE. – You often cite Michel Guérard as a mentor. What did he bring you?

EB – He left a great impression on me with his unique cuisine, the man and the poet that he is. He is a chef that I adore and admire. Today, we talk a lot about cooking when we come back from the plantations. He's had this approach for years, I remember going to pick herbs in the vegetable garden. The olfactory imprint of verbena always makes me think of him.

SHE. – Is olfaction an integral part of your work?

EB- I met a few noses with whom there were incredible exchanges. We do olfaction sessions, it's my recreation, a growing passion. My job opens the doors to infinitely expandable universes. Smell is closely linked to taste, one does not go without the other and the health crisis has reminded us of this.

SHE. – Espadon was closed for work for a long time before reopening six months ago. How did this collaboration work with the Ritz to redesign the restaurant?

EB- I was lucky to have carte blanche over the kitchen and the restaurant, which allowed me to keep my signature. It was my kitchen that they came for when they called me, so it made sense to do it that way. I was at the genesis of the project for the design, identity, decoration. We broke everything down and rebuilt everything, but we kept the DNA of Charles Ritz's restaurant. The open kitchen was close to my heart, which allows us to have two main points of view for the customers we welcome: the ballet of the cooks and the view of the interior garden.

SHE. – Your cuisine is marked by your 18 years of life in Gabon, Congo and Ivory Coast. What culinary memories do you have from this time?

EB- There are a lot of them. Mango, coconut, cassava… The iced bissap that we bought from street vendors is my grenadine. I never told myself that I wanted to shake up the codes with fusion cuisine, these are my inspirations. I will not draw my creativity from the neighbor, but from myself. I proposed a poultry inspired by chicken yassa, with personal markers. The onion, for example, is matured and cooked in a clay crust, and all of this comes from a childhood memory.

SHE. – When you prepare a dish, what sensations do you want to provoke in your guests?

EB – Every bite must be gripping. This is how we enter into people’s privacy. I look for emotion and of course pleasure. I like that each bite provides different sensations, going into acids, bitters, umami etc. Man needs these kinds of intense moments, taking the journey that a chef offers. Even if “hustling” has never been the watchword, my only desire is to express myself by creating emotion. We work there every evening.

SHE. – This star is not the only distinction obtained by Espadon. You also have three Ecotables. Does cooking in an eco-responsible way take effort or just common sense?

EB – It's even just common sense. Today, it is rewarded. Alright ! But it is absolutely normal to work locally by highlighting producers. That's the only way to get far on the plate, it's human work. As soon as we can stay in Île-de-France, we do so. The poultry comes from Houdan, the onions from our vegetable garden located thirty kilometers away, the citrus fruits are Corsican. And yet, the inspirations are very distant…

SHE. – What are your ambitions for the future?

EB- I hope we stabilize. We are lucky to have had a magnificent opening with this first star. The work ahead will be even harder to consolidate this success. Rework dishes and renew the creative process. I have my feet on the ground. I came back from the Michelin Guide ceremony with great happiness, but we got back to work immediately.

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