It’s a Family Affair with Chef Hélène Darroze

Chef Hélène Darroze found her love of food growing up in her family’s illustrious kitchen in south-west France, learning to cook from her grandmothers. Hailing from a long line of hoteliers, her great grandfather opened the Auberge Le Relais in Villeneuve-de-Marsan in 1895, she runs two Michelin star establishments today: the eponymous Hélène Darroze at The Connaught in London as well as Restaurant Hélène Darroze in Paris. Boasting a total of five Michelin stars, Chef Hélène Darroze has been a trailblazer in a male-dominated industry. A mother of two, she promotes women in the field, pointing out when she won The World’s Best Female Chef in 2015 that there were more women in the kitchen for the first time since she opened her restaurant in 1999.

Aspire Lifestyles: What has influenced your cooking style or philosophy?

Chef Hélène Darroze: My love of food and passion of cooking comes from my family and is in my DNA. It’s part of the family heritage and passed through all the generations. Some of my earliest memories are going to the local market with my grandparents to choose and buy ingredients such as foie gras, milk-fed veal and vegetables. We’d then go back home to prepare a family meal where there would be 20 of us around a table sharing food and enjoying each other’s company.

AL: What do you want the world to know about the cuisine of your country and the cuisine of your restaurant?

Chef HD: Authenticity of product, sharing moments derived from my family, passion for our products and always cooking with my heart and soul. All of our menus are a culinary symphony of seasonal ingredients in tune with my passion for provenance and support for local growers. I create tailored menus, grounded in seasonal British produce, infused with French flair and shaped around the guest.

AL: What is the most important value you teach your kitchen team?

Chef HD: Always be yourself, work with your heart, work from what is inside you, and always have respect and responsibility. The star is not the chef, the ingredients we use are. You can’t be a good chef if you don’t have quality ingredients. So, we need to respect the ingredients and work closely with our close network of trusted suppliers.

AL: As the Covid pandemic has forced the industry to change on so many levels – what was the most important detail or aspect of service / experience for you that you wanted to keep the same upon reopening?

Chef HD: I don’t want this pandemic to change the special relationship all of the team at Hélène Darroze at The Connaught have with our guests. We want to maintain the attentive service we are famous for and keep on providing personally tailored menus that are a reflection of our guest’s personal tastes.

AL: What were the main things that you felt you needed to change / adapt?

Chef HD:  I want to change to focus more on local producers in the UK where we can source the finest seasonal produce.

AL: What kind of meals were you making personally and for your family / friends during quarantine?

Chef HD: I made a lot of comfort food to share with my friends and families all made from local produce sourced from suppliers in Paris.

AL: As a Chef at a top restaurant, you likely always go at a very fast pace. Did you enjoy the “downtime” of quarantine and what did you do to fill your time?

Chef HD: I really enjoyed the lockdown time as I was able to spend lots of time and share quality moments with my two daughters. I had more relaxing time for myself, reading books, watching tv and creating new recipes – something that I don’t always have the opportunity to do whilst busy at work.