I divide my time between Paris and London, as I have restaurants in both cities. It can be a bit hectic, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
For breakfast I have my usual boiled egg and ham – always with Poilâne bread; it is so delicious (and Apollina Poilâne is a very dear friend of mine). Both restaurants are closed on Mondays, so it’s the day of the week I can take my daughters to school, which is always a real treat for the three of us.
When I don’t have to be in the restaurant, I like to visit my producers as often as I can. As a fourth generation chef, I have worked with many of them for numerous years and some have even worked with my family before me. I grew up in a family-run restaurant in south-west France, so some of them I have known since I was little.
I have spent months working on a new menu at the Connaught, which celebrates the tastes and textures of the individual produce, allowing the individual products to shine. Each day, my suppliers provide me with the very best of the day’s catch, crop or produce and I create a dish based around this wonderful ingredient.
One of my favourite producers to go and see is Pierre Matayron, who supplies me with delicious Noir de Bigorre ham. Pierre is based in Bearn, in the south west of France. It takes me around an hour and a half to get there from Paris by plane.
Once there, I’ll discuss the product with Pierre, and how I am going to use it within dishes at my London restaurant. At the restaurant, I’ll always serve the ham with freshly made bread as an appetiser. It’s of such high quality that it is best eaten simply on its own.
The pigs have an interesting history. The black Noir de Bigorre pigs are indigenous to Gascony in France and almost became extinct, before they became a protected species in the late 1980s. Similar to the Spanish Iberico, they are particularly suited to the changeable climate – hot summers and cold winters – of the region in which they are bred. Raised outdoors, they’re fed on grass, roots and chestnuts to give a rich red meat, which is finely fragranced.
Afterwards I might pop into another supplier in the area on my way back to Paris, such as my chicken supplier Arnaud Tauzin (see Hélène’s roast chicken recipe here) or catch up with my family in Landes. Often I will visit new suppliers to taste their products and hear about their new methods and techniques. I am always searching for the best, so am constantly adding to my list of trusted suppliers, all of whom provide me with exceptional produce.
You can now enjoy the new lunch menu at Hélène Darroze at the Connaught.
Two courses for £30 or three courses for £38, the daily changing menu is compiled from the new produce-focused à la carte.
Five of my favourite UK suppliers
1. Alex McMullan, Lobster
2. Janet Oldroyd Hulme, Rhubarb
3. James Odgers, Dexter beef
4. Joe Schneider, Stichelton cheese (pictured above, with Helene)
5. Keltic Seafare, XXL Scallops
Guilty pleasure – Krispy Kreme doughnuts
My friend Pierre Herme got me hooked on Krispy Kreme doughnuts when we were walking through Harrods about five years ago and I have been addicted ever since! They remind me a little of my childhood, as my grandmother used to make something very similar at home but without the cream.