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 for the future.
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 the Paul Bocuse Institute.
My passion for food came later in life than it did for many of my colleagues. Actually, I knew that I wanted to become a cook at the age of 17; that’s when I realized chefs were no longer just chefs. Today, they fight for things outside of the kitchen, like the 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 course are you taking?
I was born in Lyon, like Paul Bocuse. He is certainly the most famous person from my city. For me and my family, this school was one of the best in the world, and it has the Paul Bocuse name, of course. 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 master.
We also have practice classes: learning the techniques and products of classic French cuisine.
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 basics of cuisine, rigor, and excellence. And the final 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 producing 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 the cuisines of other cultures during my internships. I really have not been disappointed at all.
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 together with some of the best French chefs such as Emmanuel Renaud.
Then I went to Amsterdam for 4 months to work at Bar Alt, where I learned a lot of things about “being a chef.” I developed really good relations with the chef and all the employees.
Chef Thomas Kooijman allowed me to be creative and that has really inspired me.
In 3 weeks time, I fly to Copenhagen, where I’ll start my last 6 month internship at Geranium. I’m really looking forward to starting 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 it and respond to it. For my first internship, I would say 2, the chef was really strict but that forges a positive spirit.
They teach [students] what stress is and how to contain it and respond to it.
For my last internship, I would definitely say 9. Being relaxed and enjoying cooking was a part of the values that the chef wanted to share with the team, taking the stress out. I learnt that that you work better when you’re not stressed.
8. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned so far?
I was really surprised when I found out you can bake some things cold. I mean, liquid nitrogen. Baking something at 195 °F 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 in 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.
10. Who’s your favorite chef?
I really like the work of people such as Massimo Bottura, René Redzepi, and Rasmus Kofoed because, as I said before, nowadays chefs need to be in the kitchen but also they need to fight for things: environment, health, working conditions, and so on… Those chefs inspire me a lot.
11. What is the best meal you’ve ever had?
I was lucky enough to eat at Enigma in Barcelona. That experience was amazing. When you enter the restaurant, you enter another world, from walls to ceiling. Then you are served with 40 dishes influenced by Spanish and Japanese cuisine. The dish that I liked best was duck liver marinated like a gravlax in 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 the top 3 dishes you are most proud of so far?
I’m very proud of my first creation, an amuse bouche that I created in Bar Alt: a carrot rolled in wakame seaweed, an orange/sichuan/honey sauce and sesame seeds. That was my first creation that was actually served to the guests.
Then, during ,lockdown, I had more time to cook and I made dishes such as a green monochrome with cucumber, miso, tarragon, and a cumbava granité. I’m really proud of that dish because the tastes were really complex but had good harmony.
I also made a dish for my grandparents that they really enjoyed. It was beef, corn, miso and meat juices. It was difficult because it was the first time that I created a dish specially for them – there was a lot of pressure! I was really proud of the result.
14. What cuisine, besides French, would you really like to master and why?
I am really impressed by Nordic cuisine, their way of working, conserving products, their vision concerning the environment, and their proximity to nature. After that, I would like to learn Japanese techniques such as making my own miso, learning the best way to cut a fish, etc.