Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino
3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Amy Tarr: Why did you start cooking?
What or who inspired you to become a chef?
Vincent Pouessel: My uncle was
a high-end butcher in Paris. He gave me all the love of the work –
loving where you realize a plate, it pleases you, it makes you happy
to execute something well. One of my uncle’s customers in a
restaurant needed help, so I started working for him. But my very
first summer experience was at 15. My aunt ran the charcouterie side
of the butcher shop – terrines, sausage, etc.
AT: Where did you train? Would you recommend culinary school to
aspiring chefs today?
VP: I went to the Lycée Hotelier Notre Dame in Brittany.
It was a very strict Catholic culinary school. It was extremely
disciplined, which is good to lead you into a profession of discipline
and respect. The kitchen is one of the best places to understand
and have a true idea of respect – for people and your product.
AT: How did you first meet Charlie Palmer?
VP: After my experience in culinary school, I worked in Paris at
the Eiffel Tower – it’s one of the busiest restaurants
in Paris. After 5 years I needed something different. I told the
chef I wanted to move on and he told me all about Philippe Rispoli
working at Daniel in New York. Philippe was about to take a position
at the Mansion at MGM Grand and needed a second. I had faith in
Philippe and the chef who introduced us. Charlie approached me through
Philippe, who agreed to take a position at Aureole on the condition
that I come too.
AT: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
VP: I put myself in the diner’s position. I want them to be
satisfied. I give attention to each detail. As much as I can, I
make the product my number one focus. Especially a product that’s
affordable, that women know about and can buy in the grocery store.
You can create a memorable menu of truffles, caviar, foie gras,
but your palate doesn’t remember. Beets and other ingredients
you have at home, you remember.
AT: What is your most indispensable kitchen tool? Why?
VP: My staff. My wife tells me every day that if I care a little
more about her than my staff, well….My staff is extremely
important and I have to take care of them.
AT: Is there a culinary technique that you have either created
or use in an unusual way?
VP: I’m not sure that I’ve ever created anything. But
like Paul Bocuse used to say on TV, I’m learning every day.
There’s not a day that I don’t see something new. Paul
really showed that humility goes a long way in our profession. The
star is the product, not the chef.
AT: What is your favorite question to ask during an interview for
a potential new line cook?
VP: The very first thing I ask is, “Do you like to eat? Do
you like good food? Would you rather enjoy a slice of country pâté
with cornichons or an In and Out burger?” You have to appreciate
and take pleasure in food.
AT: What tips would you offer young chefs just getting started?
VP: If you want to be a cook and make a career out of it, don’t
ever be afraid of the work. In 2005 the bottom line is that it’s
a hands-on job. There’s no machine, no robot that is going
to make food smell or taste the way a human can, or make sure the
brioche dough has enough puff. You need human senses and you have
to work hard, but it’s worth it.If you take any normal restaurant,
the person who serves the food makes twice as much as the person
who makes the food. In any country. But if you want to succeed,
with talent, hard work, and opportunity, you’ll be able to
make it well.
AT: Where do you see yourself
in 5 years? In 10 years?
VP: Not in Charlie’s
shoes. It’s become an entirely different profession. Charlie
misses the kitchen. I’m still pretty motivated and excited
about being in the kitchen. I’m going to be around a while.
I hope to have my own little spot. Nothing fancy. I’m more
of a rustic person.
AUREOLE | Las Vegas
There’s something ironic about a Frenchman
running the kitchen of one America’s quintessential fine dining
restaurants, but Vincent Pouessel is eager to share his enthusiasm for
mentor Charlie Palmer’s no-nonsense approach to cooking at Aureole.
Hailing from a small town in Brittany, Pouessel attended the Hotelier
Notre Dame, a strict Catholic culinary school and ideal training ground
for learning the discipline of the kitchen. In fact, discipline, respect,
passion and attention to detail are the four pillars of his chef persona.
Pouessel is delighted to call Las Vegas his home. “For years no
one took this town seriously when it came to food, but now it’s
one of the most credible cities in America for diners as well as for chefs.”
Citrus Grilled Escolar, White and Green Asparagus,
Chef Vincent Pouessel of Aureole
at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino
– Las Vegas, NV
Adapted by StarChefs.com
Dried Lemon Slices:
- 1 lemon
- 1 cup simple syrup
- 1 (16-ounce) bottle balsamic vinegar (Modena)
- 2 pounds fresh watercress
- 3 - 4 ounces chicken stock
- 16 ounces whole butter, diced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 16 stalks white asparagus
- 16 stalks green asparagus
- ½ pound baby pattypan squash, halved
- 1 Tablespoon clarified butter
- 1 Tablespoon parsley, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 Tablespoons whole butter
- 4 x 7 ounce portion escolar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Zest of 1 lemon, dried, ground to powder
- Watercress sprigs
For Dried Lemon Slices:
Preheat oven to 200° F. Slice lemon into paper-thin pieces using an
electric slicer or Japanese mandoline. Dip lemon slices in simple syrup.
Shake off any excess syrup and place lemon slices on a silpat-lined sheet
pan. Place another sheet pan on top of the lemon slices. Place in oven
and bake until lemons are completely dried, approximately 45 minutes.
Remove from oven and reserve.
For Balsamic Reduction:
In a saucepan, bring balsamic vinegar to a simmer and reduce until it
is thick and syrupy. Reserve.
For Watercress Emulsion:
In a pot of salted boiling water, blanch watercress. Remove blanched watercress
from water and place on paper towel. Squeeze out any excess water. Put
watercress in blender bowl. With motor running, slowly add enough chicken
stock to bind watercress puree. Once mixture is completely smooth, slowly
add diced whole butter. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Pour
emulsion through a cheesecloth-lined fine strainer. Mixture should be
a bright emerald green.
In a large pot of salted boiling water, blanch baby pattypan squash first,
followed by the asparagus. Transfer the squash and asparagus to an ice
bath and shock. Drain pattypan squash and asparagus on paper towel and
refrigerate until ready to use. In a small pan, sauté pattypan
squash in butter. Season squash with salt and pepper and toss with chopped
parsley. Refresh the blanched white and green asparagus in seasoned chicken
stock and whole butter.
Set oven to 200° F. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high
heat. Season the escolar with salt and pepper. Place fish on the grill.
Lift and rotate fish on a 45° angle to produce grill marks. Flip escolar
and make similar markings on the other side. If fish is not cooked to
desired temperature, place on an oven-proof plate coated in butter and
finish cooking in the oven. Do not over cook.
To Assemble and Serve:
Place asparagus in a criss-cross frame pattern in the middle of the plate
to hold the pattypan squash. Place the grilled escolar on top of the asparagus
Place a slice of dried lemon on top of the escolar and sprinkle lemon
powder dust on top. Garnish with a few sprigs of fresh watercress.
Drizzle the watercress emulsion around the edge of the asparagus, allowing
it to pool slightly but not touch the edge of the plate. Drizzle balsamic
reduction in a small zigzag pattern as a contrast on the watercress emulsion.