The chef de cuisine at the Michelin-starred Hélène Darroze in Paris and the two-Michelin-starred Hélène Darroze at the Connaught in London tells Katie Pathiaki what advice she would give those wanting to follow in her footsteps.
I am the fourth generation in my family to cook. I started my first job in the industry at 12 or 14 and I was a dishwasher in my grandfather's restaurant. I used to do that during the holidays and worked my way up through the different positions of the restaurant while I was studying. When I graduated I started with Alain Ducasse in Monaco. I think it was in my DNA to become a chef. I always had it in my blood.
Being a chef is all about giving happiness. It's an amazing job. Working with new dishes and being able to put my creativity and emotions into them is probably the most exciting thing about my job.
Every day is a new day and you have to start from nothing. You have to question yourself all the time in the kitchen and also from a business side. That's one of the keys to success.
I have learnt that it's important to be myself, do the things I love and not to follow trends. You have to be honest with what you do. I'm not able to cook something I don't believe in, and I'm not able to cook something I don't want to eat. Cooking is all about putting a bit of yourself on a plate.
At the beginning I didn't really have a food style.
When I was approached about coming to London I wasn't interested straight away. It was not in my mind to have another restaurant, but when I arrived and saw the Connaught I fell in love with this beautiful hotel. We share the same values of tradition with a bit of innovation, generosity and respecting the guest, and over the past 10 years we have brought these values to the top.
Every week I travel between London and Paris. I stay two days a week in London. It's easy to be motivated when you have two amazing teams and two amazing restaurants. I will be opening a pop-up in San SebastiÁ¡n at Hotel Maria Cristina on 1 July, and projects like this motivate me.
Today in the restaurant scene, the competition is stronger and everything is growing very fast. At the moment it's so interesting to see young chefs coming on the market who are interested and who love asking questions - it's inspiring.
The highlight of my career was when I opened the restaurants. Both times it was so special for me. I do it with all my heart and my emotions and I don't care about what anyone has to say; I'm just focused on what I want to deliver and what I want to give to my staff. It's all about building spirit and the philosophy, which takes time.
You cannot play a game in this business. You always have to be yourself and that's the best way the guests will love and understand you.
Next year marks 10 years since the Connaught opened, so I am thinking about the next 10. The Connaught is amazing. I want to follow what we have built during the last decade, but also think about how to make it different to surprise our guests. It's our motivation to surprise the guests all the time, to create the situation that they will never be bored.