Mezzaluna's innovative French chef, Olivier Pallut, shares his secrets on how to spice up the kitchen
Time Out Bahrain staff
Where are you from? The town of Cognac in the south-west of France.
What got you into the kitchen? My parents used to run a restaurant in Charente and when I was young, if I wanted my mother I had to go into the kitchen; later, I helped out to earn pocket money, and, at 14, when my father asked me what I wanted to do, I said, ‘Become a chef, of course.’
What brought you to Bahrain? Gulf Air, first as an in-flight chef and then as part of the team designing menus.
What are your favourite ingredients and how do you like to use them? Fish and vegetables. One of my favourite dishes on Mezzaluna’s menu is the seafood couscous, which is a combination of fresh fish, vegetables and spices that tastes of the sun and the sea.
Where do you get your inspiration? I read a lot of recipe books, but my greatest inspiration comes from shopping in the Central Market: the smells, the colours, the textures… all of these things get my creative juices flowing. Sometimes when I arrive, I don’t know what I’m going to put on my specials menu, but then I’ll find a product and buy it because it’s beautiful, and the ideas start formulating around that. What three kitchen tools couldn’t you live without? Cling-film because it’s so versatile; one of the best ways to poach fish and retain its flavour is to wrap it in cling-film, perhaps with some curry leaves, then place it in boiling water for five to 10 minutes. Professional knives are also essential, and for presentation, I couldn’t do without a squeezy plastic bottle that makes it so easy to apply sauces and dressings stylishly.
What’s your top cooking tip? The product is 60 per cent of the recipe, and the success of any dish begins and ends with it. If your ingredients aren’t fresh, then the results will be poor. A frozen fish will never have the same taste as a fresh fish, no matter how delicious the sauce.
What experiences have flavoured your culinary repertoire? Since graduating from catering college, I’ve worked in a number of countries, each of which has left its mark. Working in St Martin in the Carribbean, for example, I became friends with a spice shop owner who taught me a lot about things like how to recognise a prime vanilla pod: it should have silvery vanillin at the end, which looks like a type of eidelweiss flower.
What is the best meal you’ve had that you didn’t cook yourself? It was an eight-course meal at Thomas Keller’s three-Michelin-starred New York restaurant, Per-Se. Everything was indescribably good, but particularly a risotto with white truffles and a butter-poached lobster with a confit of squid, sweet peppers, rocket leaves and a saffron sauce.
What recipe have you chosen to share and why? It’s an Arabic-French fusion mackerel starter that’s easy, cheap and very refreshing for summer.
certainly i visited this Restaurant,the menue is verry nice written,but
as a retiered chef i have to say its not worth the money,dishes are prepaired in a nice way but the essential the taste
is lost in space,let the chef study abit more his books!!!