L2O, but for the last two years, the toque has been a free agent, dabbling in pop-ups in both NYC and Chicago and releasing a new e-cookbook entitled Laurent Gras: My Provence. He's relocated to NYC, where he plans to stay and launch a new eatery. We caught up with Gras to talk about his new cookbook, the differences in each city's dining scene and more.
Zagat: Tell us a little about your new cookbook - what inspired you to do this project?
It started with the blog I was doing back in Chicago. The whole idea came from that - to do a digital book instead of a paper one.
Zagat: The recipes are inspired by your childhood, and there are personal stories attached to each one. Is there a certain memory that piqued your interest in becoming a chef?
The most interesting thing was going to the market with my family twice a week to buy produce and then to see them cooking it. My mom was going to the market on Wednesday, and my father was going to the market on Saturday. The weather is pretty nice in the south of France - eight months out of the year, you can get produce from local producers.
Zagat: What's going on with your NYC project?
I'll open it as soon as I get the space - it's very hard to find the right one with affordable rent.
Zagat: What do you think are the main differences are between the dining scenes in NY vs. Chicago?
They are different, but both cities support unique kinds of food. They support casual dining, local dining. I think New York is very ready for someone to do something a little bit out-of-the-box - if the food is good, people will enjoy it.
Zagat: Of all the amazing chefs you've worked with, who would you say was the biggest influence on you?
I spent the longest time with Alain Ducasse. Each chef is different with a different philosophy. It's a part of who you become in the future. I was very lucky to work with great chefs, and I learned something amazing: the combo of how you want to cook and how you behave.
Zagat: What are some of your favorite places to eat in NY?
I love Dell'anima and Minetta Tavern, but I don't go out very often at night. I like to stay home.
Any new projects in Chicago?
I've been very active in doing pop-ups. They're great - one week, and it's gone.