19. June 2012
Amélie Pignarre is what you could call an “all round savorer.” She's not only a graphic designer, illustrator and photographer, but also a passionate gourmet and a true Parisian. Pignarre is an expert on the culinary landscape of France's capital and knows how to throw a successful dinner bash for friends. Her second cook book “Je cuisine marin” (I cook maritime) was recently released in France.
Just six months after your debut “Je cuisine naturel” (I cook naturally), your second cookbook is out in France. Has cooking always been a passion of yours?
Cooking has held a special place in the lives of my family and myself for as long as I can remember. One of my grandfathers was a head pâtissier, the other one ran the restaurants of the Eiffel tower in the fifties; my uncle was a baker and my cousin runs a farm with a guest house. My parents cooked every day. We always took a lot of time for extended meals, except for Sundays when we would make do with a cheese platter or a salad. Whenever we went on vacation with befriended families, we'd get together at night in the kitchen to cook together. The ritual of eating always had something festive. It's still like that for me today. It excites me to look forward to a shared meal.
Where do you get the ideas for your recipes?
Many of my recipes have accompanied me for a long time and have advanced into classics over the course of time. I don't know where they originated because I refined and altered them step by step. Depending on what I found at the market or in my parent's garden, it's mostly through the ingredients that I arrive at new recipes. I gain inspiration from the things that surround me in my everyday life: my freinds, my family, restaurants, cook books, blogs, etc. I also enjoy experimenting: I'll start with an existing recipe and then swap one ingredient to adjust it to my personal taste. In a nutshell – I create my own cuisine.
The culinary journey you describe in your books runs from the Bretagne over the alps to the Provence and the mediterranean coast. These regions are just as diverse as the recipes in your compilation. You seem to know a lot about France's regional cuisines.
I traveled through much of France over the years and I love discovering a region's culinary specialties. I always bring back products from these trips to cook or modify typical recipes from that region. So I know my way around the regional cuisines, especially those that I regularly visit. Still, everything I know is still very small in relation to France's actual culinary versatility.
Is there a region that lies especially close to your heart, culinarily speaking?
I feel very connected to the Languedoc region – an area in the middle of southern France, between the Rhône and Garonne rivers – because I have family there. Next to the region's typical meals and products, I'm also interested in the excellent wines it offers. The Bretagne also holds a special place in my heart because I have many friends there.
Another reason your books are so enjoyable to look at are the beautiful photographs we recognized from your blog. Where did your fondness of food photography originate?
I started taking pictures, mostly close-ups of exclusively food and flowers, with my very first camera. I arranged them on my computer according to date and quickly had the idea of doing more with them. I wanted to share not only recipes in my blog but everything that had to do with cooking, from my personal perspective. So I wrote about restaurants that I liked and trips I took to far away places. Cooking is omnipresent in my every day life. My blog is set up like a ship's log where I report about my culinary life in chronological order and post corresponding pictures of the different meals. I wanted to portray the individual meals as simple and natural as possible, since that type of cuisine is most in accordance with myself.
They say that there is no other country that places as much high value on savor and good food as France. You live in Paris, a mecca of restaurants. Have you observed changes in development of its culinary landscape?
Good cuisine has gained importance all over the world in the last couple of years. In France and especially Paris, restaurants are suddenly appearing that see themselves as gourmet locations with a friendly atmosphere and follow a movement we call “author's cuisine”. The meals appear to be simple in their making, the plates are elaborately decorated, but the processed products are the real focus of attention. It's the natural quality of fruit and vegetable that's important. The origins of meat and cheese are frequently laid out in the open. This focus on a pristine yet newly defined cuisine, which has long existed among renowned starred chefs like Alain Passard, is increasingly being picked up by the more affordable Parisian restaurants. Their meals are less standardized because every chef brings in a personal note. The à-la-carte selection is smaller in exchange for several plats du jour and fresh ingredients.
Amélie Pignarre: “Je cuisine naturel” and “Je cuisine marin”. Editions Pyramyd. French. 14,99 €. Available via amazon.