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Growing up between the Montmartre in Paris and Mayenne, a small town in Pays de la Loire about a three-hours drive from the capital, Nicolas Sale has fond memories of his childhood. Talking about the dishes that he was raised on and the memories that he has of cooking with his grandmother in the kitchen have fueled his passion for cooking. When Sale joined the team at the Ritz Paris as Executive Chef—an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property—in 2016, he knew that he wanted to incorporate not only the recipes that inspired fond memories of his youth, but recipes that many in France had the same penchant for.
We sat down with Sale to talk about his favorite dishes, what inspires his cooking, and some tips he has for those in the kitchen.
When planning a dinner party, what's one thing that many people overlook?
"You have to think of the people that you're inviting over and adapting the type of food that you're trying to make. For instance, there are certain dishes that I would never serve to my grandmother, like, I'd never add pistachios to something because she'd say that those are for dessert."
What's your favorite dish from your childhood?
"The dish is tomatoes with hard boiled eggs that my grandmother used to make. It was something that you eat so regularly that when I got to the Ritz, I thought, I'm going to try and make this into something haute couture. I wasn't sure if I was going to get there, but I wanted to try. We succeeded in making something similar that evoked those same emotions and memories from my childhood."
When cooking for a group, what's a recipe that always impresses?
"Depending what's seasonal and available at the market, you can really create a dish from that. I love rotisserie chicken and will just throw in some potatoes and mushrooms. Or a large fish right in the center of the table. When you've been cooking since you were so young, it doesn't have to be this whole thing. You can open your refrigerator and be like, 'I have this, and I have this, and I have this. Now, how can I put them together?'. At the end of the day, that's kind of the essence."
What's one thing that you learned from your grandmother about cooking that you cherish?
"I love cooking for family and friends at home. I try to cook in the same way that my grandmother would because when you're getting together with family and friends it's about sharing and having a moment together. Of course I'll still make a jus that accompanies the rotisserie chicken and potatoes, but my grandmother would do that as well. It's all about the values that I learned from my grandmother about sharing and having a moment with your guests."
For Francophiles who want their own experience cooking at the Ritz Paris, the hotel has a cooking school, École Ritz Escoffier, with classes that cover a range of techniques for any skill level.