Q & A with Head Chef, Jean-Didier Gouges
After settling in nicely as new Head Chef of The Petersham Restaurant, we spent some time getting to know a bit more about the man behind the menus, Jean-Didier Gouges…
Q. When did you first realise you wanted to become a chef?
When I was a kid, I remember asking my mum to buy me a cake and she refused. I knew at that moment that one day I wanted to know how to make one myself.
Q. Which was the first restaurant you worked in?
Labourdonnais Waterfront Hotel, a five-star business hotel in my home country of Mauritius. I joined as an apprentice when I was just 17.
Q. How would you describe your cooking style?
Artistic, modern and creative. I like to play with texture, and I always try to create a story with my dishes. For example, my mandarin and mint cheesecake is in the shape of a mandarin, nestled on a chocolate and orange crumbly soil with lemon cress balm. I have created the ‘skin’ of the cheesecake to look just like the skin of a real mandarin.
Q. What has been the biggest influence on the way you cook and why?
I would say that Instagram has been a fantastic tool for discovering talented chefs and learning all about new techniques, ideas and ingredients used in the industry. The huge pool of creativity it offers is amazing.
Q. What is your favourite food to make?
As a chocolatier, it has to be creating our handmade chocolates that we give out to guests during coffee service. The whole process of making them is so delicate and intricate yet I find it so relaxing.
Q. What is your current favourite experimental ingredient or cooking technique?
I’m hugely interested in experimenting with molecular gastronomy which is basically ‘food science’ – when transformations occur in ingredients during the cooking experience. For example, I’ve created edible ‘stone potatoes’ made using a clay paste, giving the potatoes the appearance of stones.
Q. What is the secret to exceptional cooking?
Patience – if you love cooking, you will get there eventually. With time you will learn what works for your cooking and what doesn’t. Never give up, and never doubt your capabilities.
Q. Tell us something we would not know about you?
I’m an avid coin collector – I love finding new coins to add to my collection and then learning about the history behind each one.
Q. Which other chefs do you most admire?
My grandma – she cooks the best Mauritian food purely from her heart!
Q. What is your guilty food pleasure?
No surprise here but it has to be chocolate – I try to avoid buying any and aim to stick to my own creations otherwise I will eat too much!
If you would like to book a table, we recommend booking early to avoid disappointment. Book online or contact our restaurant on 020 8939 1084 to reserve your table.