Interview with Pastry Chef Joel Lahon of Nobu Miami Beach — Miami Beach, FL

March 3

Will Blunt: What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?
Joel Lahon: It’s a part of my culture and it was very natural. I grew up on a small farm in southwestern France with great products, so it runs in my family.

WB: Where have you worked professionally as a chef?
JL: I’ve worked 8 years at Nobu and before that I worked for Marco Pierre White. Before that I worked at a very traditional pastry shop in France.

WB: Would you recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks?
JL: I went to Bordeaux Academy and got my degree in pastry, which I found very useful. We had one main teacher and I had a very good one. I find, however, that culinary schools here are not on the same page with the restaurants. They have no merit standards. So I recruit from Europe.

WB: Who are some of your mentors?
JL: Oriol Balaguer, Stephane Glacier, Michel Bras, and Pierre Gagnaire.

WB: Have you done any influential stages?
JL: I staged all over in Italy and France – some highly rated places, some not. I get a lot of stagiers from schools and we also get many from other Nobu restaurants.

WB: What question gives you the most insight to a cook when you’re interviewing them for a position in your kitchen?
JL: I like to ask them if they want to be a pastry chef, what their favorite dessert is, and also what book they last read. I look for a combination of passion and skill.

WB: What advice would you offer young chefs just getting started?
JL: Keep quiet and follow. Watch and learn. Soak everything up.

WB: Is there an ingredient that you feel is underappreciated and underutilized?
JL: Fruit is underappreciated and there is so much to explore – from tropical to Asian. There are so many more fruits than people realize.

WB: What are a few of your favorite flavor combinations?
JL: Yuzu and raspberry; apricot and curry; red miso and chocolate milk.

WB: What’s your most indispensable kitchen tool? Why?
JL: My oven and my ice-cream machine.

WB: What are your favorite cookbooks?
JL: Albert Adria’s first book in ’99 broke a lot of boundaries and introduced new textures.

WB: Where do you like to go for culinary travel?
JL: I love Asia, particularly Japan. It was amazing and it’s another culture close to food. Chefs honor their craft and respect tradition.

WB: What languages do you speak?
JL: French, English, and kitchen Japanese.

WB: What are your favorite restaurants off the beaten path in your city?
JL: I like to go to this small Peruvian fish restaurant called Pachamamma in Sunny Isles.

WB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
JL: I like my plate to look happy and reflect my happiness and passion. I love my work.

WB: Who would you most like to cook for you?
JL: I’d like Pierre Gagnaire to cook for me. In terms of experiences, I’d like to make my daughter's wedding cake someday.

WB: If you weren’t a chef what do you think you’d be doing?
JL: I almost became a building engineer to preserve architectural monuments.

WB: What does success mean for you?
JL: My work is my passion, my passion is my success and my success is my family.