At Baumé, the new 22-seat restaurant in Palo Alto from former Chez TJ chef Bruno Chemel, molecular gastronomy is king and Michelin stars are beside the point, according to a new interview with the French chef by Food Gal Carolyn Jung. Chemel shakes off all that drama with Chez TJ proprietor George Aviet, saying, “All the dirty laundry — I let him do it. It’s out of my memory now.” Also, he says he’s working to please his customers now, not some silly group of judges. “I’m shooting for nothing,” he insists. Below, an excerpt in which he discusses his restaurant’s namesake.
Food Gal: Why name the restaurant after a chemist?
Chemel: I had the name in mind for 10 years. Plus, Antoine is the name of my son, too. Baume is French, it’s easy to pronounce and it’s catchy. A Baume scale, which measures the density of liquids, is a precise instrument still used today. It reflects how I’m using old techniques to cook. I still sear on iron, even though I do sous vide (cooking food in a vacuum-sealed bag at low, precise temperatures in a water bath). It’s a regular kitchen, but with some new, fun toys.
Is it more challenging to open a prix fixe-only restaurant in an economy like this?
No, I don’t think so. In the 1980s, I cooked in France when the economy was bad, but we were still booked 90 days in advance. Here, we’re booked every night (Baumé is open Thursday through Sunday for dinner). I was not expecting that.
I think you will always have people who will want to come. You will always have people who want to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries.
Obviously, you are a firm believer that molecular gastronomy is here to stay, that it’s not a fad?
I was a teacher of sous vide cooking with Robuchon 20 years ago. It saves time, and it saves sweat during service because you can do things in advance.
But you don’t cook that way at home?
I don’t cook at home. This is my home. Since Dec. 19, when I got the key to the restaurant, I’ve never taken a day off.
Read the rest at Food Gal.
Take Five With Chef Bruno Chemel [Food Gal]
Earlier: Chez TJ Gets New Exec After Scuffle Over Michelin Star Loss [Grub Street]