Interview with our chef Claude Durand
Why did you choose Liberec?
It is quite easy. I worked as a chef in metropolis and big cities like Luxemburg, Hong Kong, Taipei, St. Petersburg, Macau, Jeddah … for more than 30 years. Your everyday reality are traffic jams, pollution, noise, crowds etc. I felt a bit tired of it and my family, too. Till now I have always worked with a big team of cooks, in big restaurants or hotels run by their owners and now I want to realise myself in my own restaurant where I can set up everything myself, I can choose decorations for the restaurant, local farmers etc.
When I came to Liberec to visit a friend (just half year ago), I was astonished and I am still. I fell in love Liberec - the city, its inhabitants and nature. I knew very soon – this is the place I want to open my own restaurant. People are very friendly and helpful here, the city is safe, you can go everywhere you want without being worried to get robbed, you do not have to be scared when your child is going from school on his own…
Moreover, the countryside is absolutely gorgeous and the air is clean. In addition to this the journey to work takes me not more than 15 minutes. I am in the town that offers the comfort of a city, with the nature and countryside few minutes away, close to great local products I can cook from.
Furthermore, CZ is in the heart of Europe. I can travel everywhere, because it is easy to get to Austria, Poland or Switzerland in few hours by car...
Why did you become a chef?
My inspiration was my grandma. She was cooking a lot and I followed her when I was 14. One day we talked together about my future profession. She told me, it would be great for me to be a cook.
- People always need to eat.
- You will always have something on your plate, when working in a restaurant.
- If you are good, you can travel all around the world and earn a living.
So I attended professional high school, where I spent half time at school and half time practising.
After three years I passed exams and became a cook. After the exam I got an offer to go to work in Switzerland and that was the beginning of my career. My job is my passion, I have never been thinking about another job.
That sound great! Do you also see some negatives on being a chef?
On the other hand, you always have to be at work when other people are free - during the holidays like Christmas, Easter, at the weekend etc. That is why a chef must have a tolerant wife or girlfriend who understands this J. I was that lucky J. And as I say, if you love your job…….
You are pride on using local products. What local products do you like most here, why and did something surprise you regarding the food market in CZE/Liberec?
The more I taste, see and try, the more I am amazed about the quality, the wide range of Bio or farm food. I was kindly surprised about the high quality of meat – pork, beef, poultry… In the farms you can see animals live in a good environment, they have space and large pastures where they eat grass. There are farms with bio fish – trouts, carps etc… and beef, pork, ducks. And one of the biggest surprise was the cheeses – I was thinking to import cheese from France as you know French reputation for cheese, but I found such a great cheese here, that I will use local one.
Will you offer some French products from France in the bistro?
Wine, of course!
Was it difficult to set up the menu from our local products?
At first I found the products from which I wanted to cook from, and then I set up the recipes. However, there is a problem with vegetables. Liberec is situated in the north, the temperatures are quite low and the season for growing vegetables is very short. So the range of local vegetables and fruit is quite limited - potatoes, onions, carrots, cabbage, apples... So we adapted the menu to this and use maximum of local products, but of course we will also use other vegetables to make the meals taste the best. You just won´t find for example mango fresh juice or tomato soup in the menu – the main ingredients must stay local.
Local food suppliers, local products… what else?
I want to use in the restaurant and promote as much as I can Czech excellent products like Czech kitchen equipments, dishes, glasses etc. I would like to connect with local professional school to cooperate with their students – I would like to hand my knowledge and experience over to students, they can use this experience everywhere in the world, then.
Your wife is a pastry chef. Who cooks at home?
As I said, cooking is my passion, so I cook at home. Time to time with my wife of course.
What is your favourite meal?
Every meal from my mum. And I like simple dishes where you can appreciate the quality of the food and cheese.
Who was the most important person for you, you cooked for?
I have cooked for many important people all around the world - politicians, royal families and so on. However, to be honest, the most important people I cooked for, are my friends. Always. Their opinion is important for me and I am happy if they like the meal.
Was it difficult for you and your family to move around the world?
For me not. However, I have a family, a son – and they have to acclimatise every time we move to new country, accommodation, cuisine, new habits, new school, new friends. And when my son one day asked me – where we go home, I came to realise that hotel, where we actually lived, is no home and my family needs stability.
Is Liberec your final destination?
I wish so!