Jean-Philippe Borro’s career has seen him become an intrinsic part of the Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo’s history: after working as head chef there, the former apprentice of Alain Ducasse and Philippe Legendre is now taking on the role of executive chef, placing him at the helm of all the hotel’s various food services. For our Inspiration pages, Borro has joined us to talk about how he uses different flavours to bring a myriad of fine dining experiences to life.
What does being the executive chef at the Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo***** mean to you?
Jean-Philippe Borro: I feel proud to work in such a prestigious place, and lucky to get to work with different types of food. The role of executive chef implies you may have to juggle different styles of food within the same place, and set up good teams who work with good ingredients that reflect the concepts our customers want to see.
What types of food do you work with?
J-P Borro: In the Crystal Lounge, street food is king: tacos, bao buns, fashionable ingredients…fast food that’s spicy and vibrant, and really shows the bar off at its best. At Le Limun, our bistro style showcases French cuisine. There, we serve classic dishes with the odd quirky twist. That is also where our garden comes into its own on the plate: all the herbs, aubergines, courgettes and tomatoes come from our very own kitchen garden. We tend to do a bit of everything here: from tapas to bistronomy and grand banquets.
How do you juggle all these different aspects of the job?
J-P Borro: I work a very specific way: whoever is overseeing a location is very much suited to the customer experience we are looking to provide there. At the Crystal Lounge, that person needs to be dynamic: someone who has an insight into spicing, and will be able to bring diners modern street food. Le Limun, meanwhile, has more of a feminine feel to it: this is encouraged by its menu of salads and grilled dishes, which are very popular with our female regulars. Banquets, too, need someone completely different in the kitchen: every aspect of our food service requires a different approach.
Do all these different culinary experiences have anything in common?
J-P Borro: Yes, of course: great ingredients prepared with consummate technique. That forms the foundation for each of the concepts we offer.
What is the first piece of advice you give your teams?
J-P Borro: Our mantra is to love what we do. To me, that means whatever we make needs to be something we would want to eat. That allows us to really focus in when it comes to seasoning. As the chef tastes it, they need to be thinking “wow, I would love to eat that!”. You need to share a kind of empathy with the customer who will be experiencing the dish, and understand how it will make them feel.
What is your philosophy in the kitchen?
J-P Borro: A good cook needs to have an incredibly curious mind. Our industry moves fast: Michelin-starred food is not what it was ten years ago. There are new ways of working now, and new ingredients. Low-temperature cooking, cooking for wellbeing and plant-based cooking are changing the story. You can see it here at the Hermitage: customers are drawn in by produce from our garden, a gorgeous cluster of vegetables…
Have you had a mentor who guided and inspired you on your journey?
J-P Borro: Franck Cerutti showed me that cooking is first and foremost about closeness and simplicity. That is why using Mediterranean flavours and making sure menus are understandable is so important. He taught me how to elevate a simple ingredient by using it in different ways – so for example, using squash stock to make a squash risotto, serving it with a squash puree, and so on. He also made me want to be an executive chef: to lead kitchen teams just like him, with a simple, relaxed approach.
In your opinion, what is the ideal menu?
J-P Borro: There needs to be a delicate balance of surprises, innovative cooking, and also the signature dishes our regulars want to see. So for example, we always offer our lobster salad, which is truly an iconic recipe here at the Hôtel Hermitage. But we also have a real challenge on our hands to explore new things, and bring fresh ideas to the plate. That is the other side to our menus, and is what makes sure they stay on the right track.
Tell us a story about food...
J-P Borro: I remember my first meal at Le Louis XV. It was my first visit to a three-Michelin-starred restaurant where I got to enjoy the kind of food I love. I had a whole baked sea bass. I remember eating with Benoît Witz: we went for lunch at the Aquarium during the Grand Prix. Everything about it was exceptional – the flavours, the taste, the company, the incredible surroundings...I will remember that forever!
Which do you think is the most important sense?
J-P Borro: Smell: when you go into a kitchen and the smell of the food makes you salivate, that is a good sign it’s going to be delicious. In the mornings when we get to work on the sauces and jus, the aromas really do make my mouth water. But don't forget that I’m a massive foodie!
What is your favourite ingredient?
J-P Borro: Lemon. Its sharpness really helps to bring out all sorts of unique tastes and flavours. A squeeze over some fish, or a little zest just lifts everything that is already on the plate. We are lucky to have Menton nearby, where you will find every kind of citrus fruit you can imagine. Kaffir lime, regular lime, fingered citron... All the different types and varieties open the door to that extra bit of creativity.