“Growing up, I was always interested in how things were made. I’m a very practical person – if I do it, I understand it,” says Vincent Menager, Executive Chef of The Balcon restaurant in London’s Pall Mall Sofitel. “We make everything here – it’s a lot about my personality. You can’t be properly proud of something if you didn’t make it yourself. I’d rather do a few things very well then lots of things halfway. I could buy all my steaks de-boned, and vac-packed, but it’s much more interesting – and much more respectful to the product – to buy in the sirloin and butcher it myself. It’s important to show these techniques to the next generation; it’s a legacy of skill.”
Hailing from the South of France, Menager had a natural interest in cooking from a young age, thanks to the rich culinary culture that surrounded him. “Food was the centre of attention, you always have bread at the table – and I used to go to the bakers and be fascinated.” This led to him doing a trial at his local bakery aged thirteen and Menager has not looked back from food production ever since.
Whilst attending hotel school as a teenager, “I fell in love with the kitchen. It is a lot more creative – you have a lot more freedom of expression.” The rookie chef couldn’t have asked for a better start in the profession than working for Alain Ducasse, at his restaurant in Paris at the Westin hotel – which was to later become the Sofitel Castille.