“I made this dish when I became a mom”

HÉlène Darroze, chef from the Landes who has three stars in London, two in Paris and one in Provence, is also a juror in “Top Chef”. She is about to launch a burger restaurant in Paris.

“I developed Return from Hanoi at an important stage in my life, when I became a mother. I went to get my little Charlotte [qu’elle a adoptée] in Hanoi, fifteen years ago, in July 2007. Three hours after arriving at the airport, I already had the little one in my arms, but I stayed there for fifteen days, at the famous Hotel Métropole [qui accueillit William Somerset Maugham ou Charlie Chaplin]. And, every evening, I dined in the same restaurant, whose name escapes me. It’s a boui-boui from boui-boui who cooks fabulously and I always took this pho, I found it sublime. Maybe I idealize it because, for me, these are the best days of my life: I have just been a mother, I have my daughter with me in her stroller. The waitresses and the cooks understood our story – that I was going to take the baby back to France – they took her in their arms while I ate. It was a pretty incredible moment of sharing. And happiness.

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When I returned to Paris, during my few weeks of maternity leave, I looked for a good pho in Paris. I found a pretty good one in the 5e rounding off, but still, it wasn’t quite that. And, in the fall, was born the desire to work on a dish that reminds me of my trip. I couldn’t see myself making a literal version of it with beef and noodles. I just wanted to keep the broth lukewarm, very fragrant with cardamom, anise, coriander, lemongrass… and pair it with a shellfish. In the first version, in addition to the lobster, I added raw cut porcini mushrooms and shavings of marinated foie gras to give a South-West note. Fifteen years ago, I was a little too demonstrative. Since then, I have cleaned up my kitchen.

Hélène Darroze, starred chef.

I grew up in a family of cooks but I was shown very little. I went to business school and arrived in the kitchen late, with Alain Ducasse. I worked in his offices when he only had one restaurant, the Louis XV in Monaco. He was there all the time and explained to me everything he did, every element of the map. It was fabulous. After that, I took over daddy’s kitchens [à Villeneuve-de-Marsan dans les Landes]. I haven’t had any academic training, I know I lack technique and sometimes that made me feel less legitimate. It’s silly. This happened.

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