Thirty years ago, French-born celebrity chef Guillaume Brahimi came to Australia on holiday and has never left.
“But I’m very lucky, I often go back to Paris,” he says. “I have the best of both worlds.”
In the three decades he’s been here, Brahimi has left a big mark on Australian food. In 2001 he launched the fine dining restaurant Guillaume in Bennelong, at the Sydney Opera House. He has since opened Bistro Guillaume in Melbourne and Perth and is the author of three cookbooks and embarked on a TV career. In his latest small-screen project – Guillaume’s Paris, which premieres on SBS on September 22 – the chef returns to his hometown to discover the French capital’s very best eateries.
“It’s about presenting my Paris by arrondissement,” says Brahimi. He explains that the show will go on a spiral tour from the first to the 20th, where viewers will see “my favorite croissant in Paris, my favorite coffee, my favorite baguette, my favorite birch.”
Brahimi’s cooking career began in the French capital, where he trained under Michelin-starred chef Joël Robuchon. In Robuchon’s kitchen, one tool—a palette for cooking fish—was always by Brahimi’s side. It has since been misplaced and has left a hole in the gastronome’s heart. Here he tells us about the sentimental appeal of that simple item, as well as the story of a few other important personal belongings.
What I would save from my house in a fire
Three beautiful paintings that one of my daughters made. She gave them to me when I got this house, so they are very special to me. One is an octopus, the other is a crab and the other is a calamari. They are stunning. The paintings are the first thing I see when I get home and they remind me of how talented my children are.
My most useful object
I do a lot of cooking at home and I couldn’t live without my Japanese knives. I have a nice set of about eight – each with different uses. I bought these at the markets near the Imperial Palace in Kyoto.
I think knives are very important. You go to some amazing houses and look at their knives and it’s like, “oh my God”. There’s no point in having the prettiest stove if you don’t have the perfect knife. You can really tell a lot about a person, I think, from his knives. If a young chef comes into my kitchen and doesn’t have a sharp knife – the tool of our trade – well… But at home it’s just so much nicer to cook with a sharp knife. Nothing is more fun than cutting a vegetable or a piece of fish when your knife is perfectly sharp.
The knife is the most important part of the kitchen. Next is the stove. I am looking for a La Cornue stove. It’s a beautiful handmade French stove – they were built in the early 1900’s. And I’m finally getting one for Christmas. Well, I’ve put it on my wish list. We’ll see how well I did with Santa.
The Item I Most Regret Losing
I’m very good at not losing things and I hate throwing things away. I keep everything: books, magazines, corks from special bottles of wine. I even like to keep empty bottles of wine. So I’m not very good at letting things go.
But I’ve lost a palette, the long knife you use to flip fish in the pan. It was the palette I used when I worked at Robuchon in Paris. I had kept it forever, and I just lost it – I think in a move somewhere, but I’m not sure. I knew exactly how to grab the fish and gently rotate it with this palette. And there were so many memories attached to it – it was great to cook with. It was mine palette, you know. It was next to me all the time when I was cooking.