Chef Maxime is one of our trusted private chefs on the French Riviera and we have worked with him since 2017. A French chef with Russian roots, our clients always have rave reviews of his culinary skills and professional service. We highly recommend chef Maxime to all of our guests looking for a creative dining experience with a focus on local, seasonal produce. We sat down with Maxime at our Villa Candille to find out more about him, his passion for food and his exciting concept-dining restaurant.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you discover your passion for food?
I was born in Picardy, in the North of France, to parents who are high performing athletes originally from Russia. I don’t have any chefs or restaurateurs in my family however, this fact did not get in the way of me discovering a passion for baking at the age of 12. A few years later, I joined the hotel school in Nice where I studied culinary arts, service and the art of the table for the next 5 years. Soon after my graduation, I started establishing my first professional contacts and partnerships on the French Riviera.
2. Which restaurants did you previously work at? Tell us a bit about the steps you took in your career.
I first began working at L’Âne Rouge, a restaurant in Nice, and it’s at this restaurant where I learned the most. Working alongside chef Michel Devillers, I learned the importance of attention to detail, discipline and respect for the produce. After having worked in several prestigious restaurants in France and Germany, I decided to move to Russia to better discover my Russian heritage. There, I joined the team of one of the most famous restaurants in Moscow – Café Pushkin. This was a period of sharing and learning that inspired me to open my own catering company. When I came back to France I created Fine Bouche, a means to express my creativity, my passion for food as well as my ideas of new restaurant and entertainment concepts. In September 2019, I opened L’Atelier Fine Bouche.
3. Who has been your biggest influence?
Chef Michel Devillers, without a doubt. During the 8 years I worked in his establishment, L’Âne Rouge, in the port of Nice, this great chef taught me his cooking philosophy, his love for sharing, his passion and his knowledge which still remain guiding principles for me today.
4. How would you define your personal cooking style?
I would define it as an innovative cooking style with seasonal, local produce. I think that we have a desire to go back to the essentials: the taste! The taste of raw and natural products emphasized with a couple cooking techniques and accompanied by a maximum of 2 or 3 ingredients on a plate creates a contrast of flavors and textures.
5. What is your signature dish?
I never found this question to be easy, I like a lot of things and I like to surprise those I cook for! If I must, I will share two of my favorite dishes. In the winter, turbot raviolis on a bed of fine parsnip puree served in a broth infused with green tea and citrus fruits. In the summer, a pre-dessert with a tomato tartare, strawberry and coriander condiment and frozen yoghurt decorated with borage flowers.
6. What do you enjoy the most about working as a private chef for villas?
What I love about this job is that each service is a new story, new environment and new guests. I also enjoy meeting new people and, particularly for foreign guests, I have the pleasure of having them discover our region through the local produce and dishes. I also can’t deny the fact that it’s really enjoyable to work in beautiful properties with magnificent panoramic views and high-end, fully equipped kitchens – this is also a source of motivation and joy for me.
7. Where do you draw your inspiration from when creating new dishes?
In fact, it’s very simple – if you’re passionate! We are constantly inspired, it’s like a love story! The first inspiration always comes from the season, it’s always necessary to follow the seasonality and, most importantly, respect the produce at each stage of its preparation. Above all, you have to be curious! A love for travel, discovering new things and recharging. Inspiration can come from anything: a painting, beautiful landscape, a scent. I always have a little notebook and a pen with me to be able to take notes at any moment should I suddenly feel inspired.
8. What is your favourite ingredient to cook with?
If I had to choose only one ingredient it would be the parsnip. It’s a product that lends itself just as well to sweet and salty dishes. Despite the fact that it’s a rather accessible vegetable, very few people use it to cook with.
9. Tell us about your restaurant. What should people expect when they come to Atelier Fine Bouche?
Atelier Fine Bouche is a modern restaurant and is, above all, a place for creativity and discovery of tastes. The space is composed of a single U-shaped table with the kitchen integrated inside the table. Guests don’t come here simply to eat but to enjoy a full experience. It is one of the rare restaurants in our region where you have the opportunity to see the chef cooking right in front of you and to have him serve you directly. You see how the dishes are prepared and you can interact with the other guests and the chef. I wanted to create an ambiance of a private club rather than a traditional restaurant. I prepare a unique menu that consists of 6 original dishes served to the entire table with a wine pairing. There is no waiter, only passionate chefs and their guests. The menu changes every 15 days. This chef’s table only seats 16 guests, so it is recommended to book a few weeks in advance.
10. If you could cook for anyone, who would that person be and what would you cook?
This is a very nice question. I would love to cook for the great Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin. I would cook him a modern version of the Russian raviolis. It’s a pity that we are separated by a couple of centuries…
Photos by Zoya Stafienko for A.M.A Selections. All images © A.M.A Selections