Paul Burgalières: The rigour of Michelin-starred restaurants

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As part of the Montréal en Lumière Festival, Air France is once again presenting its Finest Tables. Paul Burgalières will be at the restaurant Tbsp. for two delicious evenings on February 28 and 29: Carte blanche au Royaume-Uni. For the 21st edition of the festival, thanks to Air France, 50 participating restaurateurs will be working around the theme Journey into a World of Flavours to offer exclusive and colourful menus to festival-goers.

Paul Burgalières has worked in many renowned Michelin-starred restaurants. Since 2017, the chef has been at the helm of Simon Rogan’s main restaurant, L’Enclume — two stars — in England.

Everything pushed Paul Burgalières to become a butcher. He grew up in his parents’ butchery-charcuterie in Limoges and the art of charcuterie has been king in the Burgalières family for nine generations. At a very young age, Paul developed a passion for cooking thanks to what he calls the rigour of the copper pot that reigned in his home.

However, unlike his two younger brothers who remained in the family business, Paul decided to break away from the Burgalières’ butchering traditions. He enrolled in a cooking course and instantly felt at home. “I had never been so captivated by school. Before cooking, I really didn’t like school,” recalls Paul. During his training, he also understood that the New-Aquitaine gastronomic scene was limiting his development. “I understood that to become a good cook, I had to leave to see gourmet tables and rub shoulders with more refined cuisine.”

With this in mind, Paul applied to two specialized culinary schools outside the region. His choice was the Lycée Hôtelier de La Rochelle, in Charente-Maritime. “It was a really nice training and above all a nice environment. During his two-year course, Paul did an internship at Christopher Coutanceau‘s eponymous two-Michelin star restaurant. Under the supervision of the chef, Paul discovered a whole new definition of rigour: the one that pushes him to take the time to cut the product as it should be cut, that motivates him to prepare a plate to enhance the flavours, that is necessary for the success of a renowned restaurant.

Inspired by this experience, Paul sent out resumes to many Michelin-starred restaurants at the end of his training. He started with one-star restaurants and later motivated himself to try his luck with multi-starred establishments. The saying goes “nothing ventured, nothing gained”. And indeed, Paul was hired in 2009 at Michel Trama’s L’Aubergrade — three Michelin stars at the time. Paul spoke of a technical apprenticeship, but also a human one: “Michel Trama is a self-taught chef. He talks a lot about his process and his past experiences.”

After three years, Paul headed for the Savoyard mountains, joining the team at the splendid Chabichou. In the heart of the Alps, Paul had the pleasure of working, always with the same rigorous standards, with luxury products. He only stayed there for one season before flying to the country of tea and Joël Robuchon’s workshop in London. His primary objective was to learn English. Surrounded by French colleagues in the kitchen, his experience was marked instead by the superb techniques and the passionate work of the team.

After England, Paul left for the capital of design: Copenhagen. He was hired at Geranium, the first Danish restaurant to receive three Michelin stars. At Geranium, Paul found a combination of the quality products of Chabichou and the wonderful work ethic of Michel Trama’s restaurant. Under the tutelage of chef Rasmus Kofoed, Paul learned “to really understand a product; to cut an onion 25 ways. We worked a lot with nature to respect the product.” Rasmus forced him to always question himself and his approach and process.

In addition to the technical side, his experience at Geranium was also a human one. The proof? Paul spent more than four years there, his longest stay to date. At the beginning, he was chef de partie, then he became the chef’s assistant. It was also in the Geranium’s kitchens that Paul met his significant other Alessandra Russo, sous chef and head of development.

In July 2017, the couple decided to say goodbye to Geranium for new challenges. In England, chef Simon Rogan invited Paul and Alessandra to visit his restaurant L’Enclume in Cartmel. Located on a plot of land of one hectare, the address seduced the couple by its farm to fork approach. Paul found that the restaurant reminded him of the landscapes of his childhood, in addition to putting forward a whole experience by respecting the land and its products. In July 2017, he was named chef of L’Enclume, a double-starred restaurant. For her part, Alessandra became head of research and development.

“At L’Enclume, we pick up the vegetables in the morning. Then we prepare them from A to Z; and everything is used to the maximum. It’s interesting to see what we can do with these products, like using fermented turnip peels in sauces. It’s very rewarding,” says Paul.

In England for almost three years, Paul does not hide his desire to one day run his own restaurant. He imagines an address very close to nature, on the same basis as Geranium and L’Enclume: a place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a weekend.

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