Pierre Lèotard is the chef of the La Bohème hotel restaurant at the Carlsbad Plaza hotel. His master cuisine is linked with his native country – France. In La Bohème he invites you for foie gras poelé with ginger sauce and spice granite, roast turbot with thyme and other delicacies. He was given the Michelin Star for his culinary art in France:
"I love good food and enjoy it very much. To be a good cook you need to love the individual components and create something new of them. If you are not a gourmet, you cannot be a good cook." Will you enter his kingdom with us!
1. Pierre, how did you get down to cooking?
My first inspiration was my grandmother who taught me lots of things. Nevertheless, the impulse that made me firmly convinced that I should study gastronomy was my visit to a culinary fair in Strasbourg where I could see the art of one of the best cooks of the 20th century – Paul Bocuse. I was really impressed by his show. This was in 1986 and afterwards I went to a professional cooking school for three years. My first job was at a restaurant in Besancon and then I left for Paris where I worked in a luxury restaurant close to the Paris Opera. I learned a lot at that time. Three years later I left for Courchevel and St Tropez.
2. And then your journey was directed to the other side of the globe...
From France I headed for Tahiti and to Taha'a Island in French Polynesia. The resort is located only fifteen minutes flight from Bora Bora. I managed a kitchen with 40 cooks. I still remember Tahiti vanilla which grew a few meters from the restaurant. After that great experience, I started to work for a Chinese company in Hong Kong which opened another three restaurants the following year; a restaurant for gourmets, a fitness restaurant and a traditional restaurant. It was a real challenge for me. I regularly received offers from an agency searching for talented cooks, but I was willing to study them in detail only when I was prepared for a new challenge.
In foreign countries I was often the only Frenchman in the kitchen. I taught the others basics of French cuisine – to know how to evaluate the smell of good cheese, to distinguish a good product from an excellent one, as well as to cook typical sauces. In return, the locals taught me a lot about their country and customs.
3. How did you get to Karlovy Vary?
A French headhunter phoned to offer me a job in Karlovy Vary. I wanted to go back to Europe, but not directly to France, so I promised him I would weigh it up. It was a good opportunity to get to know a new country, moreover in Europe. I was fascinated by Karlovy Vary from the very first time and decided to try it in La Bohéme after the first week of my stay. Eventually, I have been here for more than three years!
4. Who is your cooking inspiration?
Definitely Alain Ducasse, one of the best French chefs. I attended his private school in Paris and it was a great experience. Nowadays I find inspiration in professional gastronomic magazines which I get from France, but also in cook books. From time to time I also visit a nice restaurant myself. However, it is the product that is my greatest inspiration. When I see beautiful artichoke or a slice of meat, I imagine what it would look like on a plate and what the taste might be.
5. You were awarded the Michelin Star – what is your "successful recipe"?
It is very simple, but very complex at the same time. 1. Use best quality products only. 2. Be passionate about your job. 3. Have a professional team. 4. Balance taste and quality. 5. Focus on every detail, in plain terms – be a perfectionist. The Michelin Star is surely a great award of culinary work, but it is the customer who is put on the pedestal. If a guest is not satisfied, what is the Michelin Star good for?
7. Are you a big experimenter in cooking?
I look for new meals and new compositions every free minute. Let me give you some examples: duck liver with dark chocolate and ice cream of green peas, or wasabi ice cream with white chocolate and coconut milk. The most bizarre meal I have ever tried was snake soup. But I did not cook it, because I do not find it as my favourite.