“A man’s kitchen is in the performance, while a woman’s kitchen is in the “pleasure””


Interview.- This Wednesday, June 15, Louise Bourrat won the 13e edition of the Top Chef contest. The first woman to win it in almost ten years, she conquered the jury and the public thanks to her strong personality and her creative cuisine.

Last January, it was behind the scenes of the legendary Parisian palace, George V, that Louise Bourrat and the Belgian candidate Arnaud Delvenne faced off one last time to win the final of “Top Chef”. Proudly donning the colors of Hélène Darroze’s team, the young 27-year-old chef distinguished herself during the eighteen weeks of competition by her audacious and inventive cuisine, but also by her ambitious character, which led to victory.

Based in Lisbon, her country of origin on her mother’s side, she is at the head of the stoves of the family restaurant Le Boubou’s, where in the kitchen, it is mainly women who wear the apron. We interviewed her the day after her victory.

Madame Figaro.- You are the first woman to win “Top Chef” in almost 10 years. What does this represent for you?
Louise Bourrat.- I think it will take me some time to realize what happened to me. It’s a huge source of pride and a great honour, but of course, that comes with its share of pressure: the chefs who precede us, like Stéphanie Le Quellec, are very important in the industry. It’s also super galvanizing for the future, it’s proof that it will be a good omen!

What role did Hélène Darroze play during this competition?
Hélène Darroze was a very important moral support. My intuition, from the start of the competition, was to go to his team, although I changed my mind a thousand times. I wanted to work with all the chefs, who each have different things to bring to the candidates. Finally, my reason guided me to her for the simple fact that, when I started to surround myself with women in the kitchen, it calmed me down a lot and had a very positive effect on my well-being. We both have a kitchen that is completely different, but I was in a new and stressful environment, and I thought I needed something familiar, comforting.

During the competition, you won Anne-Sophie Pic’s mono-product test, then Dominique Crenn’s shellfish test. Why is it particularly important to have the recognition of female leaders?
It’s not necessarily important that women recognize the quality of my work, cooking is very subjective and the goal is for everyone to appreciate it. On the other hand, I think my cooking echoed these chefs because we have a similar approach to gastronomy. For me, a man’s kitchen is mainly about performance, while a woman’s kitchen is about “pleasure”.

What is a feminine cuisine for you?
Strangely, we say that a kitchen is feminine when it is delicate, refined, but I don’t agree. In my opinion, men’s cooking is mainly about aesthetics, precision, prowess, while women’s is about power, especially in terms of taste. I don’t want to generalize, but that’s what I find in the kitchens of the women chefs I meet.

Your brigade at Boubou’s is made up mostly of women. Why did you make this choice? How are the interactions different?
At first it wasn’t necessarily a choice. Upon returning from the first confinement, only the girls returned to work. All the responsibilities that were given to the boys, we took them head on, together, and we got there. The atmosphere was so much more pleasant, because of this solidarity, this state of mind which was not at all individualistic. We felt so valued that it galvanized us, and we felt capable of moving mountains.

You have worked for many restaurants, starred or not. As a woman, have you ever suffered in brigades?
Yes, I almost stopped cooking because of that, although I had been passionate about it since childhood. At the beginning of my career, I was an intern or a clerk in addition to being a woman. So I was not taken seriously at all. It was when I moved to the UK that things changed. I was respected, my word was taken into consideration; I discovered a new mode of management which was much more inclusive, and I evolved in the right direction, fortunately! But you should know that there is no virulence only towards women: the trainees suffer, the clerks too… In the name of excellence, the cooks inflict this torment on themselves.

Where do you hope to see the world of gastronomy headed in the future? A more feminist perspective?
You should know that the sector is already in full transition, because we can no longer recruit. Nobody wants to work in the restaurant industry anymore, which is very understandable: the wages are too low, the hours are too long, balancing work and personal life is difficult. There is too much stress, which leads to addiction problems. So today we are increasing salaries, which is already a very good thing. We therefore have no choice but to evolve the scenario towards something more positive and inclusive.

Feminist in gastronomy, is it a difficult position to assume?
Not at all. Feminism is something very positive, and has nothing against men. The objective is women: to value them, to help them and to tell them that they can do it. In life, you have to get what you want, and that’s a statement that applies to everyone.

He must not be afraid and go there with all the humility, strength, courage and vulnerability that we have.

A message for young women who want to become chefs?
I think women tend to move forward with more humility, apologizing for being there. But the problem is that it’s a place that we don’t get if we don’t go looking for it. My advice would be not to be afraid. You have to go there with all the humility, strength, courage and vulnerability you have, and that goes for both women and men. You have to go for it, but with curiosity, love and empathy. Of course, being a successful woman is not easy, it’s not what is expected of us and you have to have your head on your shoulders. The youngest will be confronted with this, but it is necessary for the good cause.

Your plans for the future?
My life is in Portugal and I am very happy there. I want to continue to work in my restaurant, to satisfy my customers. I also want to pursue this new style of management that we started two years ago, carry the standard, and gradually change the codes. I also want to enjoy life! I’m ambitious but I don’t lose sight of what matters: the simple things. I want to cook, see my friends, go to the beach. I just want to enjoy.

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