We recently talked with Executive Chef Laurent Pillard of The St. Regis Aspen Resort in Colorado. He told us about his start as a chef at just age 15 working in a Michelin star restaurant, his advice for other young chefs, and his process for creating new dishes.
Had you always wanted to become a chef? How did you get your start in the culinary industry?
Yes, I decided to become a chef at the early age of 8. My aunt and uncle own a charcuterie/catering business and during school vacations, I was always there try to help. When I was 14, Chef Claude Barnier – a dear friend of my parents and Executive Chef at the famous Plaza Athenee in Paris – told my dad he could take me to stage in Paris for 2 weeks. I loved it so much that I stayed 2 months. After that stage, he told my parents that he could be my mentor and helped me to start an apprenticeship in a 2 Michelin star restaurant at age of 15.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned over the course of your career?
During my career, I’ve learned to always lead by example; teach, train, respect and always learn from colleagues; and that travelling is the key of learning new techniques and discovering new ingredients and flavors.
What is your process when it comes to cooking and creating new dishes?
When I create a new menu, I first look at what the area as to offer – the farmers, fresh produce, any dairy or meat. My grandfather was a farmer, so to make good food, I know you have to pick the best produce possible around you. Being in Colorado, I’m using lamb but there is so many nice cheeses, charcuteries, and great farmers. I get ideas from when I’m outdoors on my bike or hiking – I’ll see some fresh flowers, berries, and mushrooms that inspire me.
What does sustainability mean to you? And how do you implement sustainable practices when it comes to preparing food and running your kitchen?
I think it is very important to use local product as much as possible, and for several reason. Like herbs and salad for example, when you cut out the packaging and traveling, you get a much fresher and better product. It is important to know when and where our products come from and understand all the effort our farmers are putting in to get a great product.
As the farm to table and other sustainable movements continue to grow – how important do you think it is for other chefs to partake in sustainable practices? And what do you think it will take to continue to get more and more chefs and restaurants involved in practicing sustainability?
It is really important. I think it will take time, but it will take educating people on how to eat and prepare what is in season, about farmers markets, etc. to get more restaurants practicing sustainability.
Is there any advice you would give to other chefs aspiring to be in your position?
I can tell any young cook or chef that working hard will always pay off. Be passionate, love what you do, always be curious, and ask questions. Learn from your mistakes, never give up, don’t count the hours. It’s fantastic job where you meet wonderful people from different fields, a job where you can travel the world.