Chef Beatriz Gonzalez is turning up the heat!
Once the last word in gastronomy on the French capital’s Left Bank, La Grande Épicerie de Paris is now straddling both sides of the Seine, taking up a second residence on Rue de Passy in the 16th arrondissement.
We meet its Mexican chef, who is bringing a scintillating touch to this fresh new location by adding some spice from her childhood culinary experiences to the French culinary repertoire: as for many chefs, youthful memories often set the tempo in her kitchen.
How were you introduced to cooking?
It’s a part of my family history. My parents had a restaurant, and although my mother wasn’t a chef, she cooked beautifully at home. Our house was always so filled with the scent of meals she was making that I couldn’t stop myself going to see her to find out what she was up to. She loves cooking so much that when she sees me in my restaurant now, she regrets not choosing it as a career herself.
So was cooking a natural choice for you?
Sort of. When I was a young girl watching my mother, I was especially attracted to pastry-making. To make a bit of pocket money, I used to make cakes and sell them to her friends. I loved doing that. Things changed when I went to the US to finish high school. When I was there, I selected French as my foreign language, so I took cookery classes because they were given in the language. I must have been quite gifted as my teacher suggested I go to France to learn the profession. It was my father who then uncovered Paul Bocuse’s school for me. But at that time, I still thought I might take over my parents’ restaurant.
How did you hear about La Grande Épicerie’s restaurant project?
They came and found me, actually. They told me about the project and the dining space, and I spotted so many things in common with my restaurant Coretta that I said yes right away. Then I talked about it with my husband, Mathieu, and thankfully he was on-board. Then everything happened very quickly. The project was up and running within six months. I’m so happy, because La Grande Épicerie trusted me completely.
Did you settle in well?
Yes, very well, we worked together hand in glove. The kitchen had already been designed, but La Grande Épicerie was happy to make a few changes. When I then needed to fit out the kitchen with the necessary tools, I naturally thought of Matfer-Bourgeat. This is a brand I’ve known for a long time and I really admire it. It’s got everything I need. They think of what I want and need for my kitchen even before I do.
What inspires or nourishes your creativity?
My teams. I find it so important to let them express themselves through each one of the dishes. I give them a product, they come up with an idea for a dish, and I choose the one I think is best, adding my own personal touch to it. I always try to use their suggestions to create other dishes so that they don’t feel they’ve put in all that work for nothing. I want everyone to feel valued for their talent and hard work.
How would you describe your cuisine?
Generous and delicate. I make carefully thought-out, gourmet dishes, and I love lavishing attention on even the smallest details. Some might say my cuisine is quite feminine, and I’d 100% agree.
What’s your favourite utensil?
I’ve got two. One is the tweezers I use for assembling dishes, which I find essential. The other is my Matfer paring knife. I almost always have it in my hand, it’s so useful. The handle’s in a pleasant material, it’s soft, extremely easy to manoeuvre and ergonomic, which is important. I’ve always got it on me, especially when dishes are being sent for serving, because I can never stop myself trimming the vegetables. There’s never a time it’s not useful!
What Matfer utensil is the one you’d say is particularly essential?
I could say any one of them, but the Matfer Prep Chef multi-cut cutter in particular is the quickest for making vegetable purees, and it’s easier than using a grinder. I’d also say the orange press, which I discovered when I visited the factory last year.
Why is that?
It’s a great little tool that opens up a whole range of possibilities. Before, to make a puree I had to use a standard vegetable mashing machine, which wasn’t handy. But now, I can quickly and effortlessly mash my potatoes all at once, and I get a perfect puree at the end. (see inset)
What dish are you proudest of?
It’s a starter made up of butternut squash, pata negra and Mimolette cheese which I thought up ages ago. I cook the squash whole before cutting into it, then I put it on a dish, sprinkle it with shavings of cured ham and Mimolette, and I finish off by pouring hot stock over it, a bit like a pot au feu. It’s deliciousness itself. I love that gourmet side meals can have.
Do you have any obsessive kitchen habits?
I can never stop going to the washing-up area during serving times to check what guests haven’t eaten. My whole team knows I do it, and now the waiting staff often even show me empty plates and say “look, chef, they loved it!” ». That’s so important to me, as when people don’t finish their meal, I always wonder why, I can stop asking myself why they didn’t like it.
Can you tell us about a cuisine you especially love?
I especially love Kei Kobayashi’s cooking. His restaurant offers some of the most sophisticated Japanese cuisine in Paris. That’s where I go if I want to treat myself. Other than that, I really like the restaurant Clamato, or for something completely different I settle down in a good brasserie and tuck into some sole meunière. It’s one of my favourites, although I also love meat. When that’s what I fancy, I head for the Clover Grill. I love Jean François Piège’s concept and his braised and roasted cooking style.
So what’s your favourite restaurant?
Alexandre Gauthier’s La Grenouillère. I can go back countless times to try his tasting menu. I’m really drawn to places where I can eat food that’s completely different from my own. His cuisine is creative and it mixes timeless tradition and modernity. His talent alone makes it worth taking the trip to Madelaine-sous-Montreuil.
What dish do you have particularly fond childhood memories of?
My mother’s pot au feu. I eat it even when it’s 40°C in Mexico! I never tire of it, and the scent that wafts through the whole house when my mother makes it always gives me the same rush. My friends loved it too when we were little girls, so the table was always set for eight people, even though we were a family of four. My mother knew my brother and I would show up with friends.
About rising star Beatriz Gonzalez
Mexican by birth, Beatriz Gonzalez grew up on the glorious island of Cozumel opposite Cancun. Her childhood was full of delicious memories, as her parents moved into the restaurant business. At 18, she was encouraged by her father to join the Institut Bocuse in Lyon for two years. Afterwards, she started out in a series of Michelin starred restaurants with Pierre Orsi in Lyon, Lucas Carton in Paris, and finally La Grande Cascade in the Bois de Boulogne, where she became sous-chef. At the age of 30, Beatriz Gonzalez decided to spread her wings and open Neva. Spurred on by its success, three years later in 2014 she started out again to open Coretta. This second restaurant at the edge of the Parc Martin Luther King in Paris’ 17th arrondissement took its lead from gourmet bistro cuisine and is managed by her husband, with Jean-François Pantaleon heading the kitchen.
As someone who always loves a challenge, Beatriz then accepted the top role in the kitchen at Le Rive Droite, a new restaurant in Paris’ 16th arrondissement. This new venture encapsulates this dynamic, enterprising chef’s character. One of the most creative cooks of her generation, for her cuisine is truly a recipe for happiness, now more than ever.
What makes her favourite utensils special?
The Matfer Prep Chef multi-cut cutter is:
• Ergonomic: Wide safety handles.
• Practical: Pusher return springs for quick and easy use.
• Effective: Cuts cleanly and easily thanks to heat-treated steel knives.
• Clean and tidy: Offcuts are caught in the device’s underlying container.