Franck Cerutti has been working with passion in the kitchens of the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo restaurants for 23 years. Perched on the eighth floor of the hotel, on the Grill terrace*, the cook who worked for 30 years with Alain Ducasse happily talks of his fondness for the Riviera, for quality products and for the art which he has been practising since arriving in Negresco in 1978.
What particularly appeals to you about Riviera food?
Franck Cerutti: More than the cooking, it’s the region itself that provides exceptional products. It’s a delight for cooks to be able to work with the treasures produced in the generous Riviera nature.
How does the view from the Grill terrace* inspire you?
F.C.: A proverb from Nice comes to mind: “Praise the sea while staying grounded on earth”. The Grill terrace* offers a view of the sea as far as the eye can see, as well as over the mountains inland. The plates are filled with cuisine from the land and sea, with dishes including sea bream with local purple artichokes or a rack of lamb with a savoury glaze.
What is your philosophy?
F.C.: I am a partisan of generous, natural and simple cooking. But rigour, control and technique lie behind its seeming simplicity. Intelligent cooking means using your know-how to enhance the project and not the other way round.
F.C.: When I was young, people used to say, “You need to steal expertise”. I still see myself as a young assistant observing chefs in the kitchens, jotting down notes on a little notebook that I would slide into my pocket, and writing them out neatly at home in the evening. Thankfully that has all changed. I take pleasure in sharing our know-how with the younger generations.
What is the most important sense in the kitchen?
F.C.: I think that all five senses are important in the kitchen, as they each contribute in their own way to the general harmony: taste, smell of course, and also sight, as that is the first sense that we use when choosing a product. Or even touch when hands are preparing dough for example.
What is your fondest memory of Monaco?
F.C.: I have had the chance to take part in many fantastic events since I started working in Monaco: the 25th anniversary of Louis XV – Alain Ducasse at the Hôtel de Paris, organising the dinner for the royal wedding, the 150th anniversary of the Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer, and so on. It is the many unique and unforgettable events etched in my memory forever that make Monaco magical.
Your favourite ingredient?
F.C.: I grew up surrounded by nature, in a village in the Nice countryside. People often say that olive oil runs through my veins.
Your favourite kitchen utensil?
I would say I have two favourites: the pestle and mortar to make pistou!
If your cooking was a book?
It would definitely be Alain Ducasse’s book Le Grand Livre de Cuisine - la Méditerranée (The Great Cookery Book - The Mediterranean).
A single one? That’s too difficult for someone as curious as myself! The best trip is always the one coming up. I love Tuscany, Piedmont and Sicily. And I enjoy visiting all the markets there.
“On dirait le Sud” - Nino Ferrer