The Wick - Helene Darroze
Photo by Jérôme Galland The Wick - Helene Darroze
Photo by Jérôme Galland
Monday Muse

Interview award-winning restaurateur and chef, Hélène Darroze

Interview
Hélène Darroze
01 April 2024
Interview
Hélène Darroze
01 April 2024
“To cook is to live and to live is to cook”. This mantra has put firepower behind the career of chef Hélène Darroze, whose restaurants on either side of the channel have many Michelin stars between them.

Darroze grew up in a family of chefs in Les Landes, Southwestern France, where she learnt a deep respect for regional cultures and ingredients. After stints in the kitchens of Alain Ducasse’s Le Louis XV in the Hotel De Paris Monaco and her family’s Relais & Châteaux restaurant in Villeneuve-de-Marsan, she opened her own destination in Paris, awarded two Michelin stars in 2019.

In 2008, she opened her first restaurant outside France in one of our favourite Mayfair haunts, The Connaught hotel, which – after several revamps and name changes – has racked up a whopping three Michelin stars. Her menu remains focused on sourcing the finest produce from her native Les Landes, the Pays Basque and within the British Isles. Further restaurants in Provence, Paris and Marrakech have followed.

As if this wasn’t enough, Darroze has also written multiple books, is a mother to two girls, co-created the charity La Bonne Etoile to help disadvantaged children and received the Knight of the Legion of Honour rank in 2012. But perhaps our favourite fact about the chef is the fact that she inspired the character Colette in the much-loved 2007 film Ratatouille.

Here, Darroze shares advice for budding female chefs, tells us what has shaped her culinary approach and reveals the artist whose work she would most like to own.

THE WICK:   You’re a mother and a leading female chef in an industry still overwhelmingly dominated by men. What advice do you have for young female chefs entering the field?

Hélène Darroze:   Just follow your passion and never stop being yourself. You certainly shouldn’t try to be a guy. Embrace being a woman, follow your emotions and always keep going.

TW:   As the fourth generation of chefs in your family, how does your heritage influence your culinary approach?

HD:   Family is the foundation. I was born in the kitchen and in a country where generosity, cooking and being around the table are an essential part of the culture. My vision is nourished by my family, my travels, my encounters, and my apprenticeships. These experiences taught me to choose the very best local produce and how to amplify their taste to new levels.

TW:   Which artist would you most like to collaborate with and why?

HD:   I would like to work with a ceramicist, ideally from Japan.

TW:   When you’re feeling culturally curious on a day off, where do you head?

HD:   I love the Tate, and regularly visit the Victoria and Albert Museum to see its fashion exhibitions. I also frequently drop in to Hamiltons Gallery, which is just around the corner from The Connaught. The Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception on Farm Street is one of the most beautiful churches in London and always uplifts the soul.

“Family is the foundation. I was born in the kitchen and in a country where generosity, cooking and being around the table are an essential part of the culture.”

TW:   What’s your favourite restaurant if you are eating out?

HD:   One of the best experiences I’ve had over the last 12 months was at Kol Restaurant in Marylebone. The chef, Santiago Lastra, is from Mexico but uses British produce in an interesting, experimental, and very tasty way.

TW:   Tell us about a book that has changed your life.

HD:   When I was a teenager I read Sophie’s Choice by William Styron, which taught me a lot of things about humanity and the difficult decisions and experiences we have to face.

TW:   What is the one artwork – painting, sculpture, or photograph – you are coveting right now?

HD:   One of Annie Morris’ colourful columns, which reflect on maternity and femininity. I will put a big one in my garden when I have a country house…

TW:   Who is your ultimate Monday Muse and why?

HD:   I’ve always been inspired by Simone Veil [1927-2017]. She was a French politician and she fought for women, while helping to build the European Union as President of the European Parliament from 1979 to 1982.


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