For Chef Jean-Pierre Vigato, a cook’s job is not always an easy one, but cooking is relaxing, and gives great pleasure! He became familiar with this pleasure when he was quite young, while sharing meals with his family. And today, he still wants to share and spread this pleasure, with his family, his associates, and his clients. He likes to have them spend time with him in the professional kitchen of his Michelin-starred restaurant, Apicius. And also in his personal family kitchen, via his blog. This is how he makes this pleasure accessible to all: by cooking “good, simple, no-frills stuff.”
Jean-Pierre Vigato has absolutely no family connections with anything related to food or cooking. But the women in the house he grew up in could cook excellent little dishes…
On the importance of making children acquainted with taste
He remembers tending the vegetable garden with his grandmother, cooking and baking with his mother, “the clatter of pans, the smell of good food, sharing meals around a dinner table!” Nothing like the smell of a dish wafting around the house to bring everyone together around “one dish only, always. There was no choice, but this was for the better since it was always good!”
Jean-Pierre Vigato’s eyes sparkle with tender emotions when he recalls the dish his grandmother cooked on holidays, the “prickly chicken: a chicken boiled in a vegetable broth, with vinegar-spiked creamy sauce”.
This awakening of the senses, the discovery of the value of simple and nice things, the taste of delicious meals, were what gave the future chef his firs culinary emotions.
But he was soon to find another reality when he became an apprentice, in Annecy. Thing were not quite like the sweet family atmosphere of the Paris area, or the adventurous trips he had imagined… It was a gruelling and merciless world. “Dickensian work conditions, crazy hours, coal stoves, ridiculous pay, no days off…”
But he soldiered on, not to disappoint his parents – and he even led them to believe he had found a vocation.
To receive, to share
Even though the world of food and cooking is one of strict hierarchies, where people can be mean and nasty, one’s passion can sometimes be rekindled by beautiful encounters.
For Chef Jean-Pierre Vigato, the most meaningful one was when he met Marcel Beaumont, who was then Chef of restaurant « Chez Albert » in Paris (2 Michelin stars). “He was quite a character! Having been brought up in state institutions, he did not have high-level culinary knowledge, but he envisioned his job from a very human perspective. By his side, Jean-Pierre Vigato started out as a kitchen hand and moved on to the dining-room jobs. After spending years stuck in the kitchen, he became a waiter and, then aged 22, realized “what a client is, and how important it is to understand his needs and wants.”
His calling took a whole new meaning – hence his desire to always give the clients pleasure. “your master and commander is the client. He is the one in charge. »
Jean-Pierre Vigato could have taken over Marcel Beaumont’s business, as the latter had offered. But he wanted to “do things on his own.”
As the restaurant was closed on Mondays, he could take side jobs in other places and “save up to 120,000 French francs and become creditworthy to banks, and open in 1979 his first business: Grandgousier, a small joint stuck between the Pigalle red light district and the Montmartre cemetery” – which was nevertheless quickly awarded one Michelin star.
The most striking moment? Shortly after opening the restaurant, on November 1st – All saints’ day – 22 bereaved widows, in full mourning attire, came to the place and got out a couple of hours later with a smile on their faces. They had forgotten their sorrow while tasting the Chef’s delicious dishes and drinking a little wine with them. This is when cooking becomes pleasure – and an efficient cure for sadness!
To share emotions
For Chef Jean-Pierre Vigato, it has always been extremely important to pass his passion for cooking to his teams. By sparing them the harsh conditions he encountered during his apprenticeship, and by supporting them in their own careers as cooks and chefs.
“You can only pass knowledge on to people you have worked with. You also give them what you have shared together: an atmosphere, with good times and the occasional fight…and meals!”
This human touch has inspired many of his disciples when they wanted to fly solo, in general with Chef Jean-Pierre Vigato’s meaningful advice and / or financial support. This is the case for Jean-Christophe Lebascle who took over La Manufacture, Tsukasa Fukuyama at A&M Restaurant, or Jérôme Gangneux at 6 New York.
Outside his professional world, Chef Jean-Pierre Vigato wants to share “not theoretical knowledge but an awakening to the pretty things. An emotion given by a product, a special touch in a recipe…In a word, a moment of grace.”
Because he always wants to give pleasure, he has created a culinary blog in his own name. Far from being “a collection of recipes with beautiful images and PhD-level requirements to understand the words,” this is “just an invitation to dream, to play, to have fun.” And he invites his guests, in his personal kitchen in Paris or in the country, to “cook good stuff, and not make a fuss about it,” to learn a few chef’s tricks, and to discover easy recipes on video.
As he likes to say: “Many are called, but few are chosen to become Chefs. But the pleasures of cooking are countless, and accessible to all!” So, everybody get their aprons on!
- October 18, 1979 : opens his first restaurant, « Le Grandgousier » (Paris 18)
- January 25, 1984 : opens Apicius, rue de Villiers (Paris 17)
- March 20, 1988 : opens La Manufacture (Issy les Moulineaux)
- December 5, 2004: Apicius relocates to a 19th Century Hotel Particulier in Paris 8
- The number 20: 1920: the year his mother was born; March 20: his birthday; 20 rue de Villiers then 20 rue d’Artois: the two successive addresses of Apicius…
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