Five minutes with Pascal Canevet at Maison Bleue in Bury St Edmunds
- Credit: Gregg Brown
Gina Long chats to the award winning owner-chef
You’re originally from Brittany – what impact has that had on your cooking style?
Nothing beats the taste of fresh fish and seafood from a fisherman’s haul. In Brittany we would pick live langoustines and crabs from the fishing boats and carry them home. We lived close to the beach and we’d barbecue the seafood with a fresh lemon or garlic. That simple approach to cooking is the backbone of my style and what I love – fresh and seasonal dishes with a twist that enhances the flavour.
What do you miss most about Brittany?
The lazy long days of family holidays, the simple lifestyle and, of course, my family. Brittany holds many happy childhood memories and my family traditions are things that I miss, from sharing good homegrown vegetables to my mother’s famous crèpe lunches. The whole family would sit on wooden benches around a long table with my mum at the head of the table in her element, using Billig crèpe griddles to produce the most beautiful savoury and sweet crèpes. To this day I have not tasted better crèpes.
What do you love about working in Suffolk?
There are so many excellent food producers, farmers markets, and artisan independent businesses offering seasonal local ingredients and products. Suffolk is well placed for access to London, and we are very close to the continent – just a 30-minute crossing away. For me Suffolk is perfect, I love the coastline and the rolling countryside. It reminds me a lot of Brittany, and Suffolk people are very welcoming and friendly.
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As champions of locally sourced ingredients what’s your favourite this season?
When I think of February I think of passion, love and deep tempting colours on the plate. Rich heartwarming dishes with a splash of intense purple from sprouting broccoli or the new red-purple Brussel sprout, which has a sweet mild taste and works really well with seasonal venison and game. I love bringing the finest seasonal ingredients together in eloquent mouthwatering dishes for our customers.
The secret behind your success is?
There’s no secret – it’s purely hard work, a love for modern-French cooking and sharing that enthusiasm with my wife, Karine. We are very much a team, both passionate about the standards and quality of Maison Bleue. We are always thinking about our customers, listening to feedback and brainstorming ideas with our team. We have superb professional, knowledgeable and hardworking people and together we strive to create the perfect ambience, food and service for our customers. We all love what we do and never take anything for granted. We are very grateful to all our loyal customers.
What influences your menus?
Nature is my inspiration – as the seasons change I follow. I plan my menus according to the seasonal vegetables and fayre available. As spring arrives and the countryside begins to burst with bright colours I follow its influence. With the first show of daffodils comes the fresh young asparagus. Everything depends on the weather and the season. It’s the balance of life, vitality and beauty.
You’re a judge for the National Young Chef Competition hosted by Bury Abbey Rotary Club – how did you get involved?
Richard Curtis, who is the president of the Bury Abbey Rotary Club, and Wendy Summers are both regular customers of Maison Bleue, and kindly asked if I would be able to help. The competition has six competitors, all local schoolchildren aged 11-17 who compete for the opportunity to win the National Young Chef award and I am honored to have been a key judge over the last few years.
I work closely with the winner offering advice and experience at Maison Bleue to help them achieve success nationally. I enjoy sharing my experience and enthusiasm. Inspiration and values are very important. A good chef takes on many influences before emerging with his own style and I’m keen to help future generations understand sustainability and seasonality.
What do you love about Maison Bleue?
The special dynamics of our customer relations. It’s a happy, welcoming environment and we enjoy entertaining. Maison Bleue is a heritage building with a modern style and deep set windows, it’s full of sunlight and retains many of the period features whilst providing a sophisticated dining experience. We are proud to be an independent fine dining restaurant within the historic core of Bury St Edmunds.
You are supporters of Bury Rugby Club – tell me more
Well you know how passionate we French are about rugby! I have actually only discovered rugby since moving to the UK and Bury Rugby Club initiated that. The club has a fabulous atmosphere, good values and players.
How do you spend your relaxation time?
Time out is always spent with good friends, either playing golf, sharing Sunday lunches or enjoying long walks at Aldeburgh. Karine and I enjoy going to the coast and walking our dogs on the beach. We’re very lucky to have a great bunch of close friends and are always busy.
Do you have a most valued possession?
I am lucky enough to own a 1921 edition of the famous Escoffier Guide Culinaire. The book was given to me by my father, who in turn was presented with the book by the president of the Culinary Institute of New York, who was a loyal customer of my father. Escoffier is renowned as one of the most important leaders in the development of modern French cuisine and more than a century later it remains the classic reference for professional chefs. I have the book on display in Maison Bleue – it reminds me of my heritage and my classic French cooking roots.
The best advice you’ve been given personally and professionally?
Always be yourself and be honest. While training as a chef I was taught at school to cook for my customer and not to please myself. I still pass on this good advice to my team.
What’s your 2016 resolution?
The usual chef’s resolution to lose weight – but if you love food . . .
For more cooking tips and recipes read Pascal’s blog: maisonbleueblog.co.uk
Celebrate the seasons at Maison Bleue award winning Modern French Cuisine, Churchgate Street, Bury St Edmunds: 01284 760623