Born in 1967 in Mont-de-Marsan, Hélène Darroze grew up in a family of hotels. Indeed, this tradition dates back to 1895 when her great-grandfather opened the Le Relais Hostel in Villeneuve-de-Marsan. Since then, the passion for gastronomy has passed on from generations to generations in the Darroze family.
In childhood, she is marked by the markets of the Landes where her father bought products from the land of this department: cerpes, eggs, liver gras, poultry, beef de Chalosse meat, salmon de l’Adour, lambs of the Pyrenees.
Well decided to follow the steps of his predecessors, Hélène Darroze began studies at Co Bordeaux Sup to control the hotel and company management. Her pocket degree, the young woman spent three years in the kitchen with Alain Ducasse, who became her mentor, in the prestigious restaurant Louis XV. As she was headed to the administration of the facility, Alain Ducasse encouraged her to get into the furnaces, identifying in her rare potential.
In 1993, she returned to the family restaurant at Chez Darroze. The following year, Jacques Chirac is the turn, he was literally conquered by Helen Darroze’s kitchen.
Wishing to fly from his own wings, Hélène Darroze sells the family restaurant to establish her new place in the capital, “Hélène Darroze.”
The restaurant does not disfill, and is sacred a year after its opening by a star at the Michelin guide. She obtained a second between 2003 and 2010.
Along with her own restaurant, Hélène Darroze puts her talent at The Connaught Hotel, London restaurant for which she is also starred in 2011.
The head of several establishments , including Joia, who is about to reopen with a new feature, the natural-minded terrace and the take-away.
Hélène Darroze is passionate about the art of good eating and has been participating in the Top Chef show on M6 channel since 2015.
Things are warming up for you and your 12th season of Top chef on channel M6. What people see is someone who is always encouraging and listening to motivate the team. Is this the real you when you are in your own kitchens with your own team?
I can be very demanding but at the same time I do listen to what they have to say. Everybody who has worked with me says my way of managing is different. We are a team, almost a family, and I want to maintain this mindset. I can count on them and they know they can count on me.
How complicated is it to juggle with your life in the kitchens, opening new restaurants and starring on the television?
I live in the fast track but at the same time I love my work, meeting people, the adrenaline, the wonderful experiences but also issues that can be difficult to manage at times!All that said, my one priority is being a good mother and that my daughters are both happy and well!
How do you manage to keep a close eye on each of your establishments at the same time?
It’s possible because I have wonderful teams that I personally trained working with me and I can delegate a lot of the work. You have to focus on what is essential.
When you get to a certain level you have to know how to delegate and empower your co-workers. I refused to do this for a long time but when I opened my restaurant in London I knew I had to change. I simply couldn’t manage everything on my own. The hardest part wasn’t to let others act for me but to put aside the guilt I felt for not being with them at key moments. To work well together, you need to speak the same language and act in a united manner. The rest is just a question of organisation: daily updates, weekly meetings … I never decide without first consulting my collaborators. The one thing I do not delegate however is the creation.
What do you like most about Top chef? What keeps you motivated from one season to the next?
The notion of transmission. Each season is a rewarding experience, to be alongside such likeable and talented candidates. Some of them are really gifted and I’ve never laughed so much in all my life! With the other members of the jury we really do have a lot of fun together!
How would you define your culinary world?
The quality, origin and freshness of the products is something that is very important for me. I have a background built on tradition since I am the fourth generation of cooks. Instinct and emotion are my watchwords so I can offer a cuisine that matches my individuality.
What for you is the indispensable winter dish?
My signature dish: roast chicken
Where do you get your inspiration to enhance and enrich your dishes from?
Encounters, travels, my personal background, my DNA.
If you had to define yourself as a delicacy, what would it be?
A Basque cake!
What projects do you have for the future?
To open my own grocery store. I would also like to continue our take-away offer and our Joia Burger menu, but first I have to find somewhere in Paris to do this.
What can we wish you for the new year?
That the current situation improves and that our restaurants can re-open normally and we can welcome back our clients that we dearly miss.