Impact guides the daily life of all Ÿnsecters: how can we feed the planet while conserving resources and biodiversity? As our initiatives broaden, we have decided to give a voice to those who are helping to change the world, offer alternatives and increase sustainably. Today, we meet Guillaume Gomez, former chef of the Elysée Palace, who has created many projects combining training and cooking to share his know-how and values with the talents of tomorrow.
We’re talking about diplomatic gastronomy: how does cooking change the world?
I have always taken the time to talk with those who make up a country’s gastronomy: pastry chefs, wine producers… While many subjects can divide people, the table brings them together. At the table, we can exchange, debate, and discover common issues: the impact of our food on the environment and health. Cooking changes people’s lives. I believe that we should not confuse “gastronomy”, an elitist word, with real “gastronomy”. Gastronomy begins with the vital need to feed ourselves, but it is something we all do, in different ways. Cooking changes the world because the table has the power to bring people together: it is a way to get to know people, to open up to new cultures. There is no better way to discover a country than through gastronomy.
You recently left the kitchens of the Elysée Palace for a new challenge: defending “French food” in the world. What does this mean concretely?
Above all, it is about protecting a certain sense of our food! It means defending a certain idea of the meal and, the social conception of food: how can we feed our families? Defending the French way of eating means putting forward our know-how, the use of local distribution channels. Almost no other country does this! Today, I think we are asking ourselves real questions about the impact of our food on the environment and health. This was not the case 30 years ago. We must be champions of a sustainable model! We must not just simply, but advise and guide the change. I think it is essential to show that tradition and innovation are not necessarily opposed but can work together. It is necessary to remain open and be aware of our surroundings to keep progressing and innovating.
There is more and more talk of sustainable food. What does that mean to you?
I think that there has been a real increase in global awareness: today there is no industry that does not make societal and environmental commitments. Everyone is aware that what was good yesterday is not necessarily good today, and that we must think about how we can best implement this change. We can only truly change things if we do it together! I also think that consumers need to be educated on the power they have: if I don’t want tomatoes to be available in winter, then I, as a consumer, need to stop buying them. But for change to occur, we must be open to discussion and not incriminate or judge. And, we must make people understand that sustainable food does not mean less tasty. On the contrary, there is nothing better than a strawberry, tomato or melon in season!
Can you tell us about your Institute of Excellence in Madagascar?
First of all, you have to understand why we chose to go there! In Madagascar, the concept of school does not exist: most children work the land to help their parents; in the Malagasy culture, school does not have the same importance as in ours, nor the same necessity. Getting out of this system is very complicated for young people. This is why we wanted to create the Institute here in Madagascar. The essence of the Institute is really to help young people, to provide them with skills and a base to be able to build something of their own. The idea is to create value together, to exchange. I am aware of how lucky I am to be French and to have had the option to go into cooking, so I share and try to help those who have not had the same luxury. With the Institute, I also try to pass on a message to the public: you don’t have to wait to be affected by a problem to act on it. Everyone can give time, money or just an ear; and the school has this goal: to motivate young people, attract partners and transmit strong values. I hope that some of them will then be able to change things for the better and help their country!
What are the essential values within a kitchen and between the teams?
First of all, I think it’s a job of passion, a vocation: that doesn’t make our job easy. The next most important things are the sharing of know-how, humility, listening… People are curious to learn, to evolve, and are aware that they must move forward without giving up or denying what they have learned. It’s all a question of balance between tradition and innovation.