Being assigned to interview one of my favorite chefs and cookbook authors about his home kitchen in the Ardeche region of France for The Wall Street Journal was a dream job. I’ve admired Stephane Reynaud for ages, long before I was fortunate enough to spend the day with him at his restaurant in the leafy suburbs of Paris when we profiled him in our staff meals cookbook . It was when I, like so many other novice and professional cooks alike, first picked up the whimsically illustrated book Pork and Sons with the pink and white gingham cover and recipes that made us dream of home, that the giant of a chef with the gentle nature and passion for family, won me over for life.
I was on the road for our Icelandic culinary tour during my first interview with Stephane for this piece and had to conduct it over Skype in the middle of the only cafe that had a wifi connection in a remote village of northern Iceland. I couldn’t use a headset because I needed to record it so Stephane’s lilting voice filled the tiny coffee shop as we discussed the slow cooking in heavy bottomed, cast iron pots he most enjoys doing at home for anyone who wants to stop by, the kitchen gadget he always has on hand in case of emergency (a wine opener, of course), and the river teaming with trout that meanders past his ancient house seven hours south of Paris.
He sifted through his refrigerator as he told the story of his favorite condiments; salty anchovies that he enjoys pairing with slow-roasted chicken, mustards that he gathers from the tiny village shops in the Ardeche, capers that he spoons over crispy fish skin before squeezing lemon on top. Before long, other customers in the cafe had gathered around my computer to listen to Stephane’s mirthful responses in the same way our grandparents used to arrange themselves around a radio a few generations ago to hear their favorite weekly serial.
When I said goodbye to Stephane (he had a lamb shank in the oven that needed tending to), an elderly woman sitting next to me sighed and said, “Too bad, he had the loveliest voice and most generous spirit. I could have listened to him all day.” I couldn’t agree more.