Alex Joseph of Rouge Tomate restaurant in Brussels is the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2015 Benelux region finalist. The 29-year-old Californian-born head chef will showcase his signature dish of Rabbit tasting with potato puree, seasonal vegetables, violet mustard, pickled wild onions and a white Sancerre rabbit reduction at the grand final the 26th of June in Milan. He spoke to us ahead of the big event.
Tell us about your signature dish.
I chose a dish that represented the Benelux region, and challenged myself to make it great. I also chose a dish with a lot of technique and difficulty. One of its strongest points is that I’m showcasing one main ingredient – rabbit – by using the whole animal and not wasting any, to really show its versatility.
What made you decide to become a chef?
When I was 10, my maths teacher used a recipe to teach us about fractions, but I was far more interested in the food. After that I started cooking at home and selling little things like banana bread in a local café. I fell in love with the craft.
Which chef or chefs inspire you daily and why?
I was fortunate to learn from chefs Doug Keane and Drew Glassell at Cyrus, California, in 2005. It shaped me as a chef and I learned many valuable lessons. As a commis at Eleven Madison Park, I fell in love with presentation and beauty. And finally, my current team, who influence me every day.
What’s the best dish you’ve ever tasted - where did you eat it, who cooked it?
Oysters and pearls, by Chef Thomas Keller at The French Laundry, is one of the best fine dining bites I’ve ever tasted.
What’s the most challenging aspect of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2015 for you?
I describe myself as a perfectionist, so I try do no less than my absolute best at all times. That’s my goal going into this competition – to prepare and concentrate on my dish to make sure that I’m 100 percent happy with what I produce on the day. If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
What kind of help/guidance would you like from your mentor?
Really just their support in the run up to the event, to make sure that I’ve covered everything I need to in order to be ready on competition day. I’m always happy to listen to people’s interpretations of my food, so I’m looking forward to hearing a fresh perspective.
What will you do if you win this competition?
I’m taking part in the competition because of my love for food and cooking, and the moments and memories that can be made in restaurants. So, if I win, I’ll go back to my restaurant and continue to share these passions with my guests and my team.