This title marks a turning point in her life and she won it at only 28, becoming the first woman Best Worker of France, in the category of high-end cooking. Ten years later, we find her serene and always as passionate, leading with love and conviction her business : a starred restaurant in Biarritz, and two establishments with Basque notes, opened in Japan. Formed by the greatest chefs, always supported by her husband Stéphane, Andrée Rosier imposes her special touch with an authentic cuisine that reveals the essence of taste, and is offered in all simplicity to celebrate the joy of life
“I grew up in a small Basque village called Mendionde, with parents who cared about the love of the product.” This childhood spent in the countryside is a precious moment of her life. With her younger sister, Andrée Rosier lived in an old farmhouse dating back to 1780, in the midst of the animals of the field which her father cared lovingly. Sheep, kids, chickens and rabbits, but also cows (Blondes d’Aquitaine) “he petted them more than anything”. Her mother will also be a model for her, because she cooked perfectly and cared so much for her small household. She will learn to live in step with the seasons, acquiring a taste for good and authentic flavors. In their big vegetable garden, the children used to help with the harvest. “In the spring, it was green beans and peas, followed by white beans in August and potatoes in September.” Very young, she was attracted by the cuisine, first of all by greed, with the fabulous snacks made by her mother on an old wood oven that still exists. But when she will learn that everything must be weighed, she will drop pastry and chose to prepare the cooked dishes instead. “I wanted to do my mother’s traditional cooking: roast chicken, piperade simmering on the stove, garbure every day, fried ham and a lot of dishes in sauce.” At school, she is determined to embrace this career even if her teachers dissuade him. “I owe a lot to my mother who believed in me and always supported me. At the critical moment, she stood firm against everyone who wanted to send me to do the classical course until the baccalaureate.” She will enter the Biarritz hotel school at the age of 16 to pass her CAP and BEP in cooking.
At school, Andrée Rosier discovered for the first time, gastronomy. She will be one of the first women to enter the very masculine world of haute cuisine. Her teacher will quickly notice her special talent and her thirst for learning. He will offer her to do her internship in a Michelin double-starred restaurant in Cannes. “My mother put me on the train and the Chef over there was waiting for me at the station.” She will work with Jean-Yves Leuranguer at the Palme d’Or restaurant, directed by Christian Willer. “I learned with him to select the best seasonal products and combine them to create subtle and authentic flavors.” In 2000, she will join Chef Alain Ducasse at the Louis XV restaurant in Monaco, which sits with three stars. “I was impressed by the man and his huge creativity. I discovered that year, the huge field of Mediterranean cuisine.” She will remain in the region to become assistant-chef at La Chèvre d’Or in Eze, with Philippe Labbé. Again, Andrée will learn the secrets of culinary art with the bold and original side of her mentor. “We spent hours in the kitchen trying to find new associations and surprising tastes!” In 2004, she will finally get back to her Basque region by joining the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz, under the direction of Jean-Marie Gautier. “He brought me a lot of rigor and sense of commitment.” All these years will bring unforgettable memories, such as the preparation of Alain Ducasse’s wedding; “a very nice meal, with chicken and turbot on the menu that required a lot of work.” In the end, four famous chefs who were her mentors and have fully trained her. “This was my school, and they each brought me a unique know-how that still serves me today.”
It is in Biarritz that Andrée Rosier has decided to prepare the contests of Meilleur Ouvrier de France, with her husband Chef Stéphane who worked with her. The exam used to take place every three years to honor the best craftsmen in the profession. Andrée worked hard till that day in 2007. “I was to give up the last week !” An intense workout and tremendous pressure that she still remembers. She will have to outdo herself by preparing a scallop pie, a rabbit stuffed, hare à la royale style, and ravioli of crepe with clementine. And she will succeed, becoming the first woman to access this title in the high-end cuisine category. I am very proud of this blue-white-red collar. “I always dedicate my title to Jean-Yves Gautier, who helped me who to ensure my victory, and to my husband who put aside his enormous personal disappointment, to support me.” Andrée Rosier was only 28 years old at that time, when she got a great deal of media attention. Reflecting on that experience, it took me four years to overcome my doubts. Fortunately, she moves into action in 2008 realizing her dream. She opened with her husband, a gourmet restaurant that will win a star in the Michelin Guide after a year. “This reward too was a big surprise because to be honest, we did not expect it so quickly. And it cap-off a team-work job !” From now on, the young Basque, so gifted in cooking, can gain confidence and express all her art in a business she will develop with excellence and discretion.
“It is a cuisine based on regional flavors by composing with seasonal products. Without being purely traditional, because innovative and open to new tastes and textures.” The couple Rosier works with four hands to offer a great and friendly cuisine. Stéphane takes care of starters and desserts, and Andrée of main dishes. Located in Biarritz, they have also chosen this place to be close to their families and friends, managing a restaurant on a human scale, with 30 seats for lunch and dinner. “This allows us to work directly with local producers, who are often childhood friends.” As for the suckling lamb, strawberries and red berries that come from her native village, or the kriaxera cane (local breed) of the surrounding farms and fish from the market of Saint-Jean-de-Luz. On the spot, one is received in the simplicity, and the Chef likes to have a direct contact with the customer. “It’s so important to have a return, which we do not have in big houses for example; This direct link is created over time and our customers become friends.” Another feature: the menu card is changed every month, but some products are musts ; like the Crab meat, which is cooked in a thousand and one ways – “for Christmas, for example, with curry, coriander, celery caramel and cucumber jelly”; or the sweetbread, whose secret is in cooking, “roasted in butter, well-watered, with a cooking as my mother did on her wooden stove”. Andrée and Stéphane Rosier always work the products they like. No fish carpaccio or bushmeat, but lots of poultry. For New Year’s Eve, they will prepare a delicious plump fattened chicken, from a producer in Magescq, in the Landes. “We will have a farm chicken in two services: supreme steamed ginger-lemongrass with a supreme sauce and vegetables. Then a pancake of confit legs with a grated black truffle, hot liver and a salad of herbs.”
This elaborate, warm and tasty cuisine is also exported to Japan. I felt in love with this country, when the Japanese came to me, thanks to the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France. The Rosiers opened a gourmet restaurant there and a bistro in the business district, with Basque specialties made with local products. “They are very purist, very curious too and they are true gourmets. With such a sense of hard work and diligence that leads to excellence.” These values that André Rosier has always embraced to become what she is.
We are moved by the simplicity of this talented Chef Andrée Rosier, and by her authentic cuisine. No doubt, it is complicated to keep it simple in culinary art. Behind all this pure and distinctive cuisine offered to our taste buds, there is a great search for excellence with hard work to unceasingly discover, create and share. The result at the end is an amazing woman who draws today all her strength in her achievements and her life balance, to offer us a moment of gustative pleasure that will remain unforgettable.
Interview held by Carine Mouradian on November 29, 2017, in Paris
Link to the website of the gastronomic restaurant Les Rosiers
“ Cooking has allowed me to express myself and communicate with the world, and I do not see myself doing another job. A refined cuisine which goes to the essentials. For that, you have to know the products : it’s the base! They have to be good and also seasonal. My clients learn to wait before tasting the seasonal products. We cannot have scallops in summer for example, but they will be in the spotlight in winter. It is this respect that is fundamental to making an authentic cuisine. Then, you have to make sure you are doing too much. A combination of up to three products is enough and you also need to scrupulously respect cooking to get a deep pairing that bring together tastes and textures. We constantly, my husband and I, seek for this simplicity that makes us different. We do not overbid or do in sophistication. Because authenticity is revealed with the essence of taste by avoiding too many mixtures. Only at this condition, the customer will remember what he has eaten. Otherwise, he is confused. It was very good, but I do not know what I ate! When the host remembers the dish he ate, for me, there is won!
I am very attached to my region of origin and to the Basque culture which has a strong identity. I draw my inspiration from it, even if all the flavors are revisited. When I was young, I wanted to learn my mother’s traditional cooking and then only I discovered gastronomy. The first dish I prepared, for example, is the famous sautéed rabbit she cooked so well; and I still propose it on my menu card today. The smells of this old time with a child’s sweet memories ! I still enjoy a poêlée de chiperons or a fried farm egg with ham, with its little piperade. Indeed, it is in childhood that one learns the authenticity and the sense of true values. And mine was a simple life, turned towards nature and its gifts, where the cuisine was a great moment of conviviality and sharing. This model of life, between effort and reward, I would like to inculcate in my own children too.
Caring about, and loving, what you do is an extremely important factor to consider when it comes to career choice and to do this job. If you love what you are doing, the customer will feel it automatically and your sincerity will touch him. Cooking is love, it’s a sharing; it is to please others, and to have fun at the same time. But there is also a lot of work behind and a personal investment to build an experience and to be in constant learning. A good cook is a passionate person who constantly tries to discover new associations that lead to different possibilities. We do not need to have a title to succeed in this business. The cook who has his little traditional restaurant and who makes good food with good products, he will succeed just as well as me. The signs are to be happy with what you do. If we are happy, if we work in joy, especially when we spend a lot of time in the kitchen, then our customers will have a good time. Respect is also that of our work, because we want to offer a break, a parenthesis in their lives where they will experience a sensory journey. That’s why, when we do an investigation of flavours, my husband and I, we keep simple and as close as possible to the product.
When I won the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France, the pressure was such that it took me four years to find my way and stay myself. I then chose to be discreet and live my life away from worldliness, to have a family balance and produce an authentic cuisine that is built daily, in a close relationship with customers, employees and local producers. I was so lucky to be able to compose four-handed cuisine with my husband Stéphane, who has always supported me. There is a real osmosis that takes place in the kitchen because man and woman are complementary in their ideas, their approaches and their sensitivity. He is more in the technique, the process and the visual design; and I am in the emotion and authenticity that is revealed in the end. It is thanks to all this that I continue this adventure by keeping my feet on the ground. And as my husband often says, we only do cooking; we do not save lives! It’s so true, not to make such a big fuss about it ! ”
Interview held by Carine Mouradian on November 29, 2017, in Paris
Link to the website of the gastronomic restaurant Les Rosiers