Only recently, the Michelin-starred chef was given a tour of the Manufacture in Le Brassus, where he was able to see for himself the many common denominators that exist between watchmaking and gastronomy, particularly when a love of the job and attention to detail prevail. Blancpain, which has collaborated with chefs for more than 30 years now, was one of the first watch brands to forge links with the world of fine cuisine. Dani García travelled from Andalusia to preside over two evenings at Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, where he created a special menu for Blancpain’s guests. This was also the perfect opportunity for a conversation with Dani García and Alain Delamuraz, vice-president and marketing director at Blancpain, in the hope of some tasty revelations!
Not really. As a boy, I lived one day at a time, never thinking about what I might do later in life. As it happens, both my parents enjoyed cooking and my father in particular liked to show me all the aspects of the different produce, and get me interested that way. I started out with traditional dishes and developed my creativity from there. This “handing down” is important, and I try to do the same with my daughter – who still lives at home – even though she was already trying food from all over the world at a very young age. Which wasn’t my case. I had to learn.
Definitely, and on every level! It’s a region bathed in sunshine that opens onto the sea. The people of Andalusia are naturally cheerful and outward-looking. I’m proud to be one of the new Spanish chefs who emerged thanks to Ferran Adriá. It’s thanks to him that we were suddenly in demand all over the world. I’d even say he invented a new creative philosophy in his cuisine which was of course hugely influential for the rest of us.
My father would take me everywhere with him when I was small. He used to take me to markets, and made sure I knew where the produce came from, especially the meat and fish. No doubt this is what inspired me to study at the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, the best hotel management school in the world. From there, I went on to internships at such prestigious establishments as the Savoy in London and the Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville in Crissier, which at that time was run by Frédy Girardet. Later, my love of service and a job well done, as well as the people I met while working in the hospitality business, brought me to watchmaking. And my love of gastronomy came with me!
It’s part of our culture, which embraces the art of living. The brand was already close to Frédy Girardet, then little by little we embarked on collaborations with some of the greatest Michelin-starred chefs, such as Paul Bocuse and Joël Robuchon. Gradually, we forged ties with other renowned chefs, in Switzerland and internationally. We also sponsor the Bocuse d’Or Suisse, a competition for chefs which spotlights the next generation. Our intention is always to build lasting relations that are rooted in the same desire for authenticity and respect for our customers.
When I was working in Marbella, at the Tourbillon boutique for example, I became more acquainted with beautiful watches. I started to see how watchmaking, like cooking, is about passion, attention to detail and special skills. It’s amazing to think there can be more than three hundred components in such a tiny object. It’s similar to gastronomy; you take precise quantities of multiple ingredients, and combine them in a unique way. Over the past decade, I’ve got to know Blancpain much better, but it’s only recently that I had the opportunity to visit the Manufacture in Vallée-de-Joux, and I was blown away! Now I wear my watch [a Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph] all the time, even when I’m cooking.
AD: Both require the finest raw materials. The difference being that they have to be ultra-fresh for cooking, whereas watchmakers can keep a stock without having to worry [laughs].
DG: In cooking, it can be really frustrating to spoil a dish and have to start again because of some tiny detail, such as a temperature that isn’t exactly right. There is no margin for error, and I think that’s even more true in watchmaking.
AD: Haute cuisine, like haute horlogerie, would be nothing without the people behind the scenes, whether it’s the purely creative aspect or the actual day-to-day making. The ultimate objective is to please the customer. Even if it’s not always easy. Even if it sometimes means starting all over again. There can be no compromise.
I don’t really like the term “molecular cuisine” as it refers to a technique which in its strictest sense has fallen out of fashion somewhat. I always keep a link with tradition, for example a modern interpretation of the Mediterranean diet.
AD: Possibly respect for tradition. At Blancpain, we will never make a quartz watch, for example. I’m not saying it’s wrong, it’s simply not our role.
DG: And I would never make anything that didn’t put the ingredients at the heart of the recipe. The ingredients always come first.