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A table of lucky people will be revisiting Laurent Loudeac’s last decade in the Hippopotamus kitchen this Friday, with a 10-course degustation. Each course will represent a dish from each year of his time at Hippopotamus.
Here’s some insight into the man of the decade:
What was your childhood like?
I had a very happy and curious childhood, growing up in Brittany a historic town made for explorers, full of thick forests, medieval towns and a proud Celtic heritage.
Greenery and castles, an interesting segway into the kitchen…
I originally wanted to be a vet, but I always wound up making my dad lunch in my teens and a family friend had a restaurant so it was a natural progression. Then I did an apprenticeship – and cooking is all I know now. It wasn’t until I was a young man, 16 years old, I began my culinary voyage in the industry, at the Hostellerie de La Ferriere in Chateaubriant, France. This is where I first learnt to make the classic French Onion soup – and have been making and developing it ever since!
(Laurent’s French Onion Soup has developed and been influenced by his time in NZ. Now hippopotamus serves French Onion Soup with Marmite)
What is the best thing about your career in the kitchen?
I am glad for it because I have been able to travel the world for it. It brought me from all over Europe to New Zealand. I might not have come to NZ if not!
Where has food taken you?
I gained experience in various 5-stars Hotels for 3 years in Ascona and Lugano, both in a small Swiss region bordering Italy. It was here I was introduced to Italian food. My Squid ink polenta with sautéed Scampi and Provençal butter sauce dish is a love letter to the provincial flavours of Italy and my Brittany heritage.
What’s a dish of yours inspired by home?
As I became addicted to seasonal travel, I saw my journey continue to London and progress in the world of luxury hotels. Double-baked soufflés were the big thing in the early 90’s and I was homesick missing the vast array of French cheeses. So, turning a positive into a negative, I created stilton double bake soufflé.
What was your first taste and thoughts of cuisine down-under?
After Europe, I was ready for another move and found myself in Australia where I discovered kangaroo meat, a protein reminiscent of a light flavoured game. My seared kangaroo loin with drunken prunes, pickled baby beetroot and salted caramel ganache was a crowd pleaser in Aussie with a mixture of sour, sweet, salty flavours. I’ve experimented with various meats, Wairarapa venison is just gorgeous and so available in this city, so I made some adjustments and it’s now one of Hippopotamus’ favourite dishes.
Join Laurent for on a sensory experience and revisit Laurent’s last decade in the Hippopotamus kitchen.
interview by chris lee
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