In a world composed largely of male colleagues, Anne-Sophie Pic has just been recognized by S. Pellegrino’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards as the best female chef in the world. And it’s an honor totally deserved. Not only does Pic come from a great culinary family but she also holds three Michelin stars in her own right – and is the only the fourth woman in history to do so.
Based in Valence (known to seasoned travelers as the southern door of France), she placed ahead of two other very talented female chefs – Spain’s Elena Arzak and Italy’s Nadia Santini. And though Arzak favors the cuisine of Iberia’s Basque region and Santini focuses on the flavors of the sea, Pic reaches back to the clear simplicity of Careme and Escoffier, the legendary masters of classic French cuisine.
Motivated by their heritage, Pic’s creations focus on enhancing the natural flavors of her ingredients, not smothering them with heavy sauces or over dominate ingredients. As a result, her menu most often highlights the use of regional vegetables and fresh fish.
Yet despite her family’s culinary legacy and France’s great heritage of cuisine, Pic did not start her career in the traditional manner of the industry. It was her brother, Alain Pic, who initially was chosen to continue the culinary dynasty began by her grandfather Andre Pic when he was Michelin rated in 1945. That valued ranking was continued by her own dear father Jacques Pic.
Anne-Sophie chose instead to study at Paris’ famed Higher Institute of Management and then moved to New York City where she worked in marketing for the prestigious firms of Moet & Chandon and Cartier. Her positions there enabled her to travel and thus she met her husband (and future business partner) David Sinapian.
Still something called her home. She missed the sounds and flavors of France and so in 1992 she decided to return to Valence and apprentice with her father. Everyone who watched them work together noticed the flow, the unspoken ease that existed between them as the famed father taught his daughter one after another the skills of a master chef.
Then abruptly Jacques Pic died of a heart attack. The famed three star restaurant was without a directing head chef. Anne-Sophie, young and less experienced than some of her staff, stepped into the void and continued the heritage of her family. By 2007 she had regained the Michelin star that traditionally is removed at the death of a great chef and went on to write the truly collectable memoir, Au Nom du Pere, about her beloved father, the history of the Pic family and her amazing life journey that led to discovering her true vocation - cuisine.
That discovery included not only the lessons learned in the kitchen but also the many marketing skills she mastered away from the heat of the stove. Working together with her insightful husband, the decor of the esteemed Pic Restaurant has been updated, a culinary school launched and a profitable line of extensional products developed and marketed online.
Truly this is a renaissance woman and one to be counted among the greatest of the industry. If you doubt that, just journey to Valence, enter the subtle elegance of Restaurant Pic and dine on the classic cuisine offered there such as pan roasted Bresse chicken supreme accented with a yellow lemon marmalade, steamed young chards or a farm fresh pigeon poached with a slightly smoked broth. Then consider their unforgettable warm Grand Marnier soufflé served with orange supremes or choose instead an air-light rice pudding.
Mere words cannot truly express the flavors, the experience. All created by one remarkable woman – one worthy of the heritage of both the cuisine grand-mere (those unnamed country-kitchen grandmothers who inspired so many great chefs to become cooks) and haute cuisine, such as Anne-Sophie’s own renowned grandfather and father created. What can one say but merci, merci, merci Anne-Sophie!
Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2011