Upcoming Culinary Star: Maxime Rodrigue, Student at the Paul Bocuse Institute, Lyon
We sat down with the talented Maxime Rodrigue, student at the prestigious Paul Bocuse Institute and aspiring chef, and talked about his experience as a culinary arts school student and his aspirations.
1. Please tell us a bit about yourself and your passion for food.
I live in Lyon, France. I’m 21 years old and I’m doing my studies at Paul Bocuse Institut.
My passion for food came later than for my colleagues. Actually I understood that I wanted to become a cook at the age of 17, when I understood that chefs were not only chefs anymore. Now they fight for things outside of the kitchen, like environment, social problems and so on… And I really appreciate that!
Now I’m still learning and I really enjoy it! Discovering new techniques, new products and trying some creations.
2. Why did you choose the Paul Bocuse Institute and what line of course are you attending?
I was born in Lyon, like Paul Bocuse. He is certainly the most famous person from my city. To me and my family, this school was one of the best in the world but also because of his name: Paul Bocuse. That’s why I choose the Institute.
We learn different classes: management, accounting, marketing, F&B management, health and safety… A lot of things that a chef needs to understand and remember.
We also have practice classes: learning the classics of French cuisine, techniques and products.
3. What was your criteria for choosing a culinary school?
I applied to two schools. I needed to be sure that I would learn the bases of cuisine, rigor, excellence. And the last thing I wanted (and I still want) was to discover the world, and the name of Paul Bocuse would open several doors to help me do that.
4. What was your cooking experience before entering the program?
I only did 2 weeks internship in a small “Bouchon Lyonnais,” a typical restaurant here in Lyon with traditional lyonnaise food.
5. What are some of the things you wish you had known before attending the culinary school?
Actually, all the things I was expecting happened, learning the basics in school and discovering other cultures during my internships. I’m really not disappointed by my expectations.
6. How has your been experience so far?
I had a 4-month internship at “La Passagère”, a one star Michelin restaurant on the French Riviera, where I learned Mediterranean cuisine. Then I participated in the Sirha 2019, the famous cuisine festival, serving VIPs and celebrities with some of the best French chefs such as Emmanuel Renaud.
Then I went to Amsterdam for 4 months to work at the “Bar Alt”, where I learned a lot of things concerning “being a chef.” I had a really good relation with the chef and all the employee.
Chef Thomas Kooijman allowed me to be creative and it’s awakened something in me.
In 3 weeks, I will take the plane to Copenhagen, where I’ll start my last internship at Geranium for 6 months. I’m really looking forward to starting over there!
7. How would you rate the working atmosphere on a scale of 1, highly stressful, to 10, relaxed and fun?
I would say that in school, the atmosphere is 4, because they teach us what stress is and how to contain and react to it. For my first internship I would say 2, the chef was really strict but it forges our spirit.
They teach [students] what stress is and how to contain and react to it.
In my last internship, I definitely say 9, that was a part of the values that the chef wanted to share with the team, enjoying cooking without stress. I understood that you can do better work when you’re not stressed.
8. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned so far?
I think that I was really surprised when I understood that we can bake some things cold. I mean liquid nitrogen. Baking something at 195 degrees taught me that there’s a lot of ways of baking.
9. Tell us a bit about your career goals and aspirations.
My goal is to continue to work hard at 3-star restaurants or earn stars in smaller restaurants. I want to learn as many things as possible, then open my own restaurant with a modern cuisine, a good team, good products, and good atmosphere.
I want to learn as many things as possible, then open my own restaurant with a modern cuisine, a good team, good products, and good atmosphere
10. Who’s your favorite chef?
I really like the work of people such as Massimo Bottura, René Redzepi, Rasmus Kofoed because, as I said before, nowadays chefs need to be in the kitchen but also they need to fight for some causes: environment, health causes, working conditions, and so on… Those chefs inspire me a lot.
11. What is the best meal you’ve ever had?
I had the luck to eat in Enigma restaurant in Barcelona. That experience was amazing. When you enter the restaurant, you enter another world from walls to ceiling. Then 40 dishes come to you with influences from Spain and Japan. The dish that I preferred was a Duck liver marinated like a gravlax in an anchovy salt.
12. What is your favorite ingredient?
My favorite ingredient is pigeon. The texture of the flesh is amazing! I really like cooking it.
13. What are your top 3 dishes that you are most proud of so far?
I’m very proud of my first creation, an amuse bouche that I created in Bar Alt restaurant, a carrot rolled in a wakame sea weed, an orange/sichuan/honey juice and sesam seeds. That was the first time that guests were eating something that I created.
Then during the lockdown, I had time to cook and I made some dishes like a green monochrome with cucumber, miso, tarragon, and a cumbava granité. I’m really proud because the dish was really complex in taste but there was a good harmony.
I made one dish for my grandparents that they really enjoyed. It was beef, corn, miso and meat juices. I was really proud because that was the first time that I created something for them so there was a lot of pressure!
14. What cuisine, besides French, would you really like to master and why?
I really impressed by the Nordic cuisine, their way of working, conserving products, their vision concerning the environment and their proximity with nature. Then I would like to learn Japanese techniques such as making my own miso, learning the best way to cut a fish, etc.