Michael Caines and Patrick Bertron: a unique friendship

Fine dining at Constance Belle Mare Plage
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Food writer, Christopher Barber, is on the ground for the 10th anniversary of The Festival Culinaire Bernard Loiseau (FCBL). Follow the hashtag #Constanceculinary this week for all the latest action.

Michael & Patrick with our island chefs

Michael & Patrick with our island chefs

Caines and Bertron

Michael Caines met Patrick Bertron over 20 years ago at Relais Bernard Loiseau; Patrick was the head chef, Michael the first English chef to grace that famous kitchen.

Despite being just a chef de partie (somewhere in the middle of the kitchen hierarchy), Michael soon became an important lieutenant in the brigade, getting trust and responsibility from Loiseau and Bertron well beyond his status.

A reunion in Mauritius

11 years since the tragic death of Bernard Loiseau, Michael and Patrick are reunited in Mauritius for the 10th Festival Culinaire Bernard Loiseau; Michael one of the six European 2* Michelin chefs, Patrick, (a founder of the festival) on the jury.

With both men being flat out with their various kitchens and business interests, they rarely meet face to face, but remain the greatest of friends. Michael drew great culinary inspiration from Patrick, the driving force of the Loiseau kitchen even when Bernard was alive. Michael said: “Bernard told me that Patrick can cook Loiseau better than Loiseau himself.” But, of course, there was only ever one Loiseau.

Strong personality

I asked Patrick why he thought that Michael had made such an impression on both himself and Bernard.

Patrick said: “Michael had the same heart, professionalism and infectious smile as Bernard, they were similar, but Michael was always the same in, and out of the kitchen.

Fine dining at Constance Hotels and Resorts

Fine dining at Constance Hotels and Resorts

“When Michael left Saulieu for Joel Robuchon in Paris, Bernard picked up the phone to Joel to recommend him, he would never have done this for another.

“I believe Michael was the first, and perhaps only chef from the Loiseau family to gain their own 2 Michelin Stars.”

True friendship

Friendship and collaboration is a vital part of FCBL. This year’s teams have been drawn, and the European and Island chefs are formulating their ideas on paper ahead of the first kitchen trial due to commence shortly – more soon on how the teams work together….

2011 winner and past jury member Serge Vieira is back this year, now meeting the criteria of 2 stars, but will all of his past experience give him an advantage? Perhaps not according to Serge. I agree with what he says: “I have to think of something different this year as the ingredients are much the same and the options are limited, everyone knows my winning dishes so I have to make sure I don’t replicate, this is an even greater challenge.”

During a kitchen presentation of the Mauritian spice blending ‘roche cari’, I could feel the competition temperature rising as the European chefs were introduced to a new technique, but it will be the best team, not the best chef that the jury will celebrate and vote the winners. Game on!

Follow all the news from this year’s Festival Culinaire Bernard Loiseau.

Get the inside track by following Christopher Barber on Twitter.

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