Interview with Team USA’s Chef Philip Tessier

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January 6, 2014

We are very excited that Chef Philip Tessier from The French Laundry is the representing Chef for Team USA. We spoke to Chef Tessier about his experience, his influences and life outside the kitchen and below are the excerpts from our conversation. We hope you enjoy learning a little bit more about Chef Tessier!

Go Team USA!

Bocuse d’Or USA: What are you most excited about?
Chef Tessier: It is an honor to represent America at this highly prestigious and competitive competition. I’m excited about the entire journey and about learning a whole new way of thinking about and executing “American cuisine”. I’m eager to see how other talented chefs work in their kitchens and how they push innovation and creativity in their restaurants. It’s a thrilling experience to be mentored by the country’s (probably some of the world’s best) chefs from Chef Keller & Boulud to Chef Kaysen and Kruether. This is my first time competing at the Bocuse d’Or and I’m eager to learn from those that have attended before and those that have competed as well.

Bocuse d’Or USA: What has been the hardest challenge for you so far?
Chef Tessier: During my time overseeing the kitchen at Bouchon, I learned the value and importance of understanding and managing people. In many ways, managing the food aspect was the easy part since you know what you want to do and you know the techniques. Understanding how to manage people, inspire them and understand what motivates them is a key element to reaching your own goals. What is often overlooked and is the central component of success is the team dynamic. If we can’t achieve our goals together then we will all fail. Understanding how to lead a team and how to be a part of the team are two distinct roles and challenges. One never stops learning the importance of removing yourself as well as your own goals and pursuits and instead focusing on the team’s success, then your own success will follow. Once you understand this more clearly you will find a greater ease in achieving your goals and be able to enjoy the ride along the way!

Bocuse d’Or USA: Who are your culinary influences?
Chef Tessier: Your career is a book with many different chapters telling the story of your successes, failures and achievements. Mine of course is still not finished, but it began with Claudia Fitzgerald who was the garde manger chef at The Williamsburg Inn where I started my career. She took me under her wing and really taught me the ropes. Then when I was at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), William Phillips was an instructor that I admired and worked with as a student and I ended up doing my fellowship with him. He taught me how to be a teacher at all levels and the discipline and attention to detail that later would serve me well. When I spent time at Le Bernardin in New York City, the entire staff showed me the power and meaning of teamwork. Working with Chefs like Jonathan Benno at Per Se and Corey Lee at The French Laundry of course were other highlights-ones that I had dreamed about when I was a culinary student. Last and certainly not least, Chef Thomas Keller. He has an ability to keep pushing everyone forward, being clear in his direction, and making sure that you are always aware and on your toes. There is a sign in our kitchen that reads: finesse: refinement and delicacy of performance, execution or artisanship. He exemplifies finesse.

Bocuse d’Or USA: When you’re not in the kitchen at The French Laundry, what do you like to do?
Chef Tessier: Family time! I have three kids and I love spending time with them exploring the world around us and rediscovering things from their level. We often also take what they are learning to apply in our home activities. They love food and recently my daughter was studying about China and we did a Chinese food cooking class where the kids all participated. As a family we enjoy the outdoors, hiking, cycling, playing soccer, farming and gardening.

*****

Thank you to Chef Tessier for taking the time to answer our questions. Please visit us again tomorrow for his Oyster Soup Recipe.

To learn more about him, check out Bocuse d’Or USA

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