Auvergne is in the centre of France, where there are about 80 dormant volcanoes. It’s a quiet part of the country. People tease us, saying there are more cows than people living there – which is true. But we don’t care – we are proud of it.
I was a baby when I first saw Auvergne. I was born in a village called Riom-ès-Montagnes in the mountains, about 850 metres above sea level. There are four distinct seasons: a hot, dry summer; a cold, snowy winter; a wet, humid autumn; and a green spring.
It’s not a very rich region in financial terms. But it has a rich history when it comes to food – famous for its charcuterie and cheeses. It’s also where Michelin – of the tyres and the guides – started. Auvergnats always eat well because they’re taught how to work with seasonal ingredients. And with the four seasons, you learn to eat four different cuisines during the year.
My grandparents and parents had a farm – and we always ate well, cooking with whatever we had. Even today, we still do our own charcuterie and bread, eating whatever vegetables the garden gives us. I go back twice a year: once in the winter – I like the cold and snow – and once in summer. People say a chef is good because he trained under this guy or that guy. But what is important is your taste education. What you eat with your family defines who you will be as a chef.