Beneath Anne-Sophie Pic’s elegant demeanour lies a steely resolve which has earned her the distinction as the fourth female chef to have been awarded three Michelin stars.
Despite having only five hours of sleep, not a single strand of hair was out of place when we met Anne-Sophie Pic, the much lauded female French chef, who was in town in June to launch La Dame De Pic, Raffles Singapore. The 50-year-old was up all morning replying emails and keeping in touch with her culinary teams from around the world. With 10 restaurants and seven Michelin stars under her belt, that’s a lot of work cut out for Pic; it’s a responsibility she takes in her stride since she took over the family’s restaurant business in Valence, France, in 1997. Pic now runs the restaurants with her husband, David Sinapian, as part of the GroupePic enterprise.
After her father Jacques Pic’s sudden passing in 1992, Anne-Sophie Pic took over Maison Pic and lost their third Michelin star in 1995. It was only in 2007 that Pic reclaimed their three-star rating and she has been an upward trajectory since. She went on to receive the Eckart Witzigmann Award for excellent culinary art in 2019, then in 14 July 2011, she was named a Chevalier (Knight) of the French Legion of Honour.
You helm Maison Pic, Andre and La Dame de Pic. How do you ensure that the menus are distinctive of each brand’s concept?
With La Dame de Pic, the concept is a bit more casual compared to Maison Pic. Every outlet has to be reflective of its country culture.In London, you will find hints of the city in the dishes, and I want a Singapore touch for La Dame de Pic too. To ensure that the menus are distinctive, all my executive and/or sous chefs will travel to Valence for a week of training. In that one week, we would work together to create new dishes for each restaurant. This annual training is very important to me as I get to check in with the chefs and troubleshoot the issues they have in their restaurant. It’s usually held in between the seasons, so my chefs can plan the menu for the following season.
What was the inspiration behind using matcha in your signature Berlingots?
The matcha berlingot was made specially for Singapore. I paired it with an aromatic green zebra tomato consommé infused with herb of grace (also known as chou cao, which I discovered during my runs to Chinatown Market) and marigold, which enhances the berlingots’ French cheese fondue filling.
I want to build a unique identity for my Singapore restaurant, so I will be taking some time during my next trip here to discover the local food scene with my Singaporean colleagues.
There has been much emphasis on chefs’ mental health in recent years. As a female chef-owner, how do you foster a nurturing culture and yet demand excellence in the kitchen?
It’s always about balance. Even though I’ve worked with a lot of men in the kitchen, it is still a struggle for me to find that balance. I’ve seen some guys behaving like wolves in my kitchen and I had to ask them to leave.
I have a chef’s table in Valence and sometimes I get questions from diners asking why the restaurant is so quiet, and it tickles me. These guests were expecting a lot shouting but this is not how I work. That’s why before service starts, I would give a lot of instructions to my chefs - I have to be precise. On top of that, I explain how I work so that they can understand my thought process. As an owner, it does not feel good when you cannot give your staff the best and push them to their fullest potential. It’s unfair for them.
As part of a historic family of chefs, are you training your 13-year-old son Nathan to take over?
Nathan is very young, so it’s a bit difficult to say that he is going to be a chef. I think he has a good sense of taste, so I’m training his palate. But, for now, he prefers dessert. Every week, he will head over to the kitchen to look for my pastry chef.
What’s on your pipeline for next year and beyond?
The Groupe Pic is always busy with projects. If we don’t have any, that spells trouble. For now, I will be concentrating on La Dame de Pic, Raffles Singapore. I have some ideas for three new cookbooks, as well as events for the Anne-Sophie Pic foundation. The foundation is very close to my heart (I started it when I became a mum). I see the struggles that these disadvantaged kids and their families go through and it breaks my heart. We organise dinner events three or four times a year, where the children and their families can enjoy food created by award-winning chefs.