La Riviera's Chef Pierre Sudre on Why the French Do It Better

Here is Part 2 of our interview with La Riviera's chef, Pierre Sudre. You can read Part 1 of the interview here.

New Times: So why do French chefs always think they are the best?

Pierre Sudre: We are.

Wow. You didn't even crack a smile when you said that.

They are the true leaders. The food is better. The creativity, the style, finesse... Even when you take chefs like Thomas Keller and Gordon Ramsay, both went to study in France. It is the temple of food. You cannot compare what French chefs deliver. They define and set the standard for the rest of us.

But Spanish chefs seem to be setting the pace now, no?

Take El Bulli. Last year, [Ferran Adrià] was talking about closing his restaurant because he went so far with what he was doing that he was saying he is not connected to what he is doing. He said he went so far he completely lost the texture of food, the density of the meat, and the softness of the fish. Molecular cuisine... for me, it's a trend effect. Now we're talking everything organic, and so on. We'll keep the best of it and move on to something else.

How does the planning process go for your monthly wine dinners?

We have the meal and then look at the wines to pair.

But usually chefs are given the wines first so they can make pairings, no?

We don't do it that way. We don't necessarily want to just expose the wines.

What is your wine of choice?

I'm more of a beer drinker. I enjoy wine, but only with food.

Who was the most impressive celebrity or dignitary you've ever cooked for/worked with, or the one person who makes you the most nervous?

When I have other chefs in general. The worst? Back in France, the first chef I worked with the next year got me a job in a different restaurant. He came to have dinner there. That was the first time I was going to cook for the person who taught me.

Describe your food in a few words.

Mediterranean, French, simplicity, quality product, humble.

Describe yourself in a few words.

Hard-headed, passionate, direct, honest, French.

Do you hang with any Miami chefs?


Any ingredient you don't like working with? Why?

I hate cucumber; it's neither a fruit or vegetable.

What's always in your refrigerator at home?

Six bottles of water, three Coronitas, soy milk, a bottle of champagne to be ready in any case, and a bottle of white wine in case she doesn't like champagne.

If I asked you to name one dish that represents you and La Riviera, what would that be?

Scallops. It's a great shellfish, very noble. I always have scallops on the menu. Right now it's pan-seared with saffron risotto, balsalmic glaze, snow peas, and roasted red pepper coulis.

What ingredient or dish is on too many American (or global) menus?

In the U.S., burgers are everywhere. Caesar salads are everywhere. But it's cultural. It's like saying to the French: "No bread and no cheese."

Most unusual food combination you've ever created or been served?

It was not too long ago in Paris -- I won't say where -- but I was served fried seaweed with caramelized nuts and sesame seeds on the outside. It didn't work for me.

What American city has the best dining scene?

San Francisco. After Chicago, it's one of the best.

If you could have one last meal, what would it be?

My mother's cooking. Anything. Two years ago, every day it was rabbits, octopus... She's a great home cook. For my father's birthday, she cooked a whole goose. If it wasn't for her, I'd be nowhere.

What recipe are you sharing with us tomorrow? Why does it represent you?

This one, [it's one] of my favorites. And it's a great dish we did on the first wine diner. It's a French recipe (of course revised) inspired from a dish called Brandade Niçoise.

Check back tomorrow for the recipe.

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Riki Altman