As one would expect of a five star hotel’s executive chef, Jean-Claude Fugier appeared seemingly out of thin air and hastily made his way to our table. “Every day is a busy day… but today is especially busy,” he said.
Fugier, having a career spanning over 20 years, was recently hired as Fairmont Heliopolis’ new Executive Chef – a hectic job that has him in charge of all the hotel’s dining venues, but nevertheless one that he is more than happy to take on.
“My General Manager (GM) and my food and beverage team (F&B) [are the best part about working at Fairmont]. We all have the same sense, knowledge, concept, discipline and [we strive for] quality,” Fugier commented when asked about his new position, “We want to be the best… our priority is quality.”
The French chef reiterated how quality is the most vital part of the job… but what stood out the most as he was describing some of the most important aspects of a career in the culinary world, was his genuine and pure passion for what he does.
Taking us back in time, to the little French city of Lyon where he grew up, Fugier recalls how cooking is just something that has always been in the family.
“My great grandfather was a chef and he raised me. He brought me to the market, I was very young,” he said with a smile on his face and in a rather matter of fact manner, “It’s not a question of whether I want to [cook] or not you know, it’s just the way I live.”
Fugier grew up with the utmost appreciation for food and local produce… it is evident that the profession, to him, is so much more than merely cooking – it is noble, and there’s artistry and beauty in every detail.
“I will tell you what is the most important thing in this field (after 20 years of experience)… this job specifically is touch memory so it’s very rare to find a job where you have a smell or taste that connects straight away to your memory, and can bring you back to a moment in your life when you were very small. These kinds of things, when you see the emotion and you can pass it through a smell or taste… that’s beautiful,” Fugier described with a gleam in his eye.
Now the French chef wants to pass this passion, as well as knowledge, onto his current F&B team and ultimately add that extra zest or spice to Fairmont’s dining experience.
Fugier enthusiastically praised his current team and assuredly mentioned how everyone has the passion the drive, and the same goal. He said that many of the venues will see some changes… Le Marché, for example, will have a change of menu as well as new pastries to be displayed, and Maria’s (the Mexican restaurant) has also gotten a new chef and will have a new menu. Fugier also excitedly mentioned how all of their produce is local and organic, praising Alexandrian fish most especially.
Fugier seems to be paving the way for a bright culinary future in Egypt, one dish at a time, and to those who would like to follow in this path… he says, “You should start to have the courage to work, and also change because you have to take the risk to change.”
Image courtesy of Fairmont Towers Heliopolis Facebook page