He is the first Japanese chef to win 3 Michelin stars in France, but French cuisine has always fascinated Kei Kobayashi, who has lived near the Louvre in Paris for almost ten years.
"There are a lot of Japanese at the moment, you accepted our place, thank you very much, thank you France!", Launched on the Michelin stage, on Monday, the chef, 42, with a childish face and bleached blond hair and spiky.
This third star, for its restaurant "Kei" opened in 2011 in the 1st district, is "a big surprise", he assured, only eight years after having conquered the first in 2012 (and the second in 2017).
The dish that marked the inspectors of the famous Red Guide? The "Garden of crunchy vegetables, Scottish smoked salmon, arugula mousse and lemon emulsion". This "dish, emblematic signature, is a beautiful aerial plate where plants are in the spotlight" and symbolizes "absolute elegance", according to the Michelin website.
He discovered French gastronomy on television in a program with the cook Alain Chapel. The first chef with whom he worked, in Japan, told him the history of French cuisine, explained to him "how Robuchon did".
"So I said to myself that we had to go to France," he told AFP in 2014.
- Tour de France -
For him, "French cuisine is local. I would have liked to tour the regions, but I did not have enough time". Arrived in France in 1998, he worked in Aude, at Gilles Goujon (L'Auberge du Vieux Puits), in Provence, in Alsace, in Brittany, in various starred establishments.
Then he decides to "go up to Paris" to work at the Plaza Athénée, with Alain Ducasse and Jean-François Piège.
"Of course I cook French," said the chef proudly. He explains that she is the one he knows best. "I learned his techniques, his cooking".
There is also a Japanese aesthetic and flavor in its dishes: the colors of its crunchy vegetable salad, its strawberry vacherin with miso ice cream. His travels in Italy and Thailand also inspire him.
This approach made of mixing flavors, between two countries and two continents, in the refined decor, in declination of gray and silver of his Parisian establishment, this is how he summarizes it on his site: "From Japan, Kei retains aesthetics, precision, harmony of colors, delicacy of flavors and naturalness. From his French gastronomic culture, he seeks the perfect balance between flavors and textures. "
Monday evening, at the end of the Michelin ceremony, he preferred however to evacuate the debate of whether it belonged to one type of cuisine rather than another, affirming to AFP simply wanting to be "the best".
© 2020 AFP