Categories: People

An Interview With Chef Wilfried Who Has Las Vegas ‘Eating Out of His Hands.’

Chef Wilfried Bergerhausen, ‘the man who has Las Vegas eating out of his hands’, was in New Delhi recently to serve his award-winning creations at Le Cirque, The Leela Palace. In an exclusive interview, the former executive chef of Le Cirque, Las Vegas tells T+L India why it’s important to have a work-life balance and how he nails it. By Shibani Bawa

“I grew up in the South of France, in a very beautiful place near Cannes, between the sea and Italy. The food of this region is very different from Parisian cuisine, which is usually very heavy with abundant use of butter and cream. I was pretty young when I started my training, just 13 years! Having grown up around hospitality, I was very interested in cooking from a very young age. My father was a sommelier and also looked after the front of the house of a restaurant, while my mother was very food driven and my uncle made kitchens for Michelin starred restaurants. But I can’t say exactly who inspired me to become a chef – it was nobody in particular or maybe it was everybody! It can’t be explained. When one is driven by passion I think you simply can’t help it.

I remember the first dish that I ever cooked was a zucchini blossom fritter. Zucchini blossoms have become very trendy now, but they are classic in the South of France, and I was always very intrigued to see my mom make this traditional dish. I am not very experimental. Even my food trials are well thought out, I can’t just mix and match ingredients to create something fantastic. I am not that good! {Laughs} Last year in spring when I walked through a garden, plucking and eating the flowers and the freshest greens transported me back to my childhood. I translated this experience into a dish called the Secret Garden.

Being a chef is a very, very difficult job. When you’re working fourteen hours a day it is almost inevitable to forget about your personal life, family and friends. And this has been a big challenge for me because as much as I love what I do, the amount that it takes away from my personal life is quite overwhelming. I can’t pinpoint major milestones in my career because it has been like driving very fast and you just see trees whizzing past. Having said that, it is nice to earn recognition but it doesn’t mean that you have ‘arrived’. There’s always more to learn on a daily basis.

The best leadership lesson is to always remember that you cannot work in a professional kitchen by yourself. Besides being a hard job on its own one has to keep the team motivated. This requires constant interaction with everyone. When you work the long hours in the kitchen you end up spending more time with your team than with your family. That’s when one learns to treat them like your siblings. Hence, maintaining personal relationships with everyone in your team becomes very important. Just like your siblings, you talk to them and learn about them.

During my most hectic schedules I maintain a work-life balance by not sleeping! That’s the only when I could make time for myself. That is why now I am taking a break simply to enjoy what ‘others’ (read: people with ‘normal careers’) do usually.”

Priyanka Chakrabarti

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