Curator of the France Box, Chef Christophe Schmitt is an acclaimed chef who’s best known for his achievements at Le Diane in Paris, where he led the restaurant to a sought-after Michelin star. He has cooked in a multitude of restaurants around the country and has garnered praise at each establishment. Passionate about high quality ingredients, his cooking style is refined in that it evokes a sense of place and culture with every dish.
When we first started working with you, you were the Executive Chef of Le Diane in Paris. What are you up to now?
I’ve just moved to a restaurant called L’Almandin, which is in Saint Cyprien in the south of France. The restaurant is in the Ile de la Lagune hotel. It’s a five star hotel near the Spanish border and it’s only been a week since I’ve been there!
Wow, sounds like a big change. Can you tell us a little bit more about the move?
I was working in Paris for 7 years and I’m originally from Strasbourg, so I consider Paris as one of many stops on my travels. And I’m excited to get some sun in the south! I want to be inspired by the region. The restaurant is near Catalonia, so I’ll let those ingredients inspire me. In France, there are specific ingredients and specific ways to use them that are distinct in each region. We have a heritage and a sense of place in each region, so I want to be inspired by my surroundings.
You seem to have an incredible sense for regional specialties. How did you become interested in cooking?
No one in my family works in the industry. When I was very young, my parents would take me to great restaurants. This gave me a taste for good food and good ingredients. I also have an aunt and a grand mother who cook very well, and already when I was very young, I would join them in the kitchen to taste what they were preparing.
I actually have a notebook from elementary school where I had written down that I wanted to become a chef when I grew up. We had to write down the job we wanted to have later in life, and I wrote down “a chef”! Then, when I was still in high school, I transferred to a hospitality school and I was lucky enough to apprentice in a Michelin-starred restaurant in Strasbourg. It was called Le Crocodile, and at the time, it was run by Monsieur Hugues, who was the chef.
Eventually, after many stops in other restaurants around the country, I became the chef at Le Diane and won several competitions. These past years were definitely very intense. They were my formative years as a chef and the first time that many people were tasting my food. It was amazing.
Throughout all these years in kitchens around the country, how have you developed your own style of cuisine?
There are a few things that really define my cooking: I love beautiful ingredients. And I never incorporate more than three flavors into one dish. I don’t like it when there’s too much mixed on the plate, so I like it when the plates are free, and there’s a natural, vegetal aspect to the dish. I also really love Asian food—it’s definitely something that fascinates me. I’ve discovered beautiful products while traveling there, and sometimes I like to incorporate little touches of their cuisine, like the broths and stocks that they make are very interesting.
Note: This interview was translated from French.