Recipes for success: Chef Thomas Jean-Paul Pascal Colette offers advice and a special salad recipe

DUBAI: French chef Thomas Jean-Paul Pascal Colette has worked in Michelin-starred kitchens in Paris and influential eateries in Moscow. He is now chef de cuisine at The St. Regis Red Sea Resort’s overwater restaurant Tilina.  

Colette says his grandmother, also a chef, was the inspiration behind his passion for cooking. “I always helped her, and it became quite natural that, when I was around, like, 12, if I was alone at home, I would try to cook something for myself, or for my family,” he tells Arab News. 

Here, he discusses common kitchen mistakes, annoying customers, tips for amateur chefs and shares a special salad recipe. 

Tilina at The St. Regis Red Sea Resort. (Supplied)

When you started out, what was the most common mistake you made? 

Seasoning. I started out in a Michelin-starred restaurant, and there, it wasn’t just salt and pepper. It was all about the balance in the dish, so you also need to think about the acidity and things like that. So at the beginning it was quite complicated. Every time my chef tried something I made, he was, like, “No, it’s not good. It’s missing this, this and that.” 

What’s your top tip for amateur chefs? 

Don’t be scared to experiment, and don’t be scared to fail, because, actually, many great dishes came from failure. So try and enjoy it — that’s what cooking is all about. 

What one ingredient can instantly improve any dish? 

Many chefs will say it’s love — because you need to care about and love what you are doing. But for me, it’s salt. Seasoning is so important. Even if you have the best ingredients, if you don’t season them, they’ll lack flavor.  

When you go out to eat, do you find yourself critiquing the food?  

No. Even if there’s something wrong, I would never tell the chef. If I see a mistake on the service side, or if there is food I don’t like, I would just try and learn from it to prevent my own customers from experiencing it. 

Tilina at The St. Regis Red Sea Resort. (Supplied)

What’s your favorite cuisine?  

It’s really about the chef, not the cuisine. If I want to go to a restaurant, then I’ll find a chef that I want to try, so it will be either be a set menu or his signature dish. And when I go back to France, I have to have a nice steak tartare. 

What’s your go-to dish if you have to cook something quickly at home? 

Pasta. You can play with it so much — you can make it with fish, with meat, with vegetables… Boil some water, put some pasta in, and see what you have in the fridge: maybe some shrimp, some tomato, a little bit of garlic and parsley. That’s perfect. 

What customer behavior most annoys you? 

Asking to change an ingredient in a dish. When I make a dish, it’s all about the balance. So, if you take out one ingredient, then the idea behind the dish doesn’t make sense anymore. I really try to avoid doing this. I’ll go and talk with the guest, and rather than change the dish, maybe try to do something special for them, something else that they would like. 

What is your favorite dish to cook? 

Seafood. This was my childhood in Normandy: When the sea was low on Sundays, we would go and pick up fresh fish. We’d go back home and cook them very simply, with a little bit of garlic, parsley, cream, and that’s it. So seafood always reminds me of this time. 

As a head chef, what are you like? Are you strict? 

You can’t run a kitchen without discipline, everyone needs to be focused during service. But, I don’t believe that discipline comes from shouting, it comes from mutual respect.  

Chef Thomas’ Red Sea Salad recipe 

INGREDIENTS: 

500g heirloom tomatoes; 3 Carabineros prawns; 10g chives; 10g salmon roe; 5g gelatine leaves; 1 egg yolk; 100g grapeseed oil or sunflower oil; 10g olive oil; 1 lemon; 50g parsley (leaves)  

INSTRUCTIONS: 

For the tomato jelly  

1. Process 250g of tomatoes in a blender. Once the mixture becomes smooth, strain it through a cheesecloth. 

2. Place the gelatine leaves in cold water. 

3. Take 50g of the tomato mixture and heat to 50° C. Add the gelatine, let it melt and then add the rest of the tomato mix. 

4. Pour 80g of it into each of three bowls and place in refrigerator. 

For the tomato tartare  

1. Boil 1L of water. 

2. Using a small knife, make a small cross at the bottom of the remaining tomatoes. 

3. Put the tomatoes in the boiling water for 10 seconds, then put them in iced water, remove the skin and dry them with a paper towel. 

4. Cut the tomatoes into four, remove the insides to get tomato petals. (Keep the insides for later, they can be used for a sauce.) 

5. Chop the tomato petals into cubes of 0.5mm. 

6. Finely chop the chives. 

7. Mix the tomatoes and chives with 5g olive oil, the juice of half a lemon, and salt, then place in the refrigerator. 

For the marinated prawns  

1. Clean the prawns. (Tip: If you keep the heads and the shell they can be used in a sauce or soup later). 

2. Chop the prawns in 1cm cubes. 

3. Mix the prawns with 5g olive oil, the juice of half a lemon, and lemon zest. Let them marinate for 10 minutes.  

For the parsley mayo  

1. Warm up 100g of grapeseed oil to 72°C, then pour it into blender with parsley leaves and mix for two minutes. 

2. Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth. 

3. Put 1 egg yolk, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk while slowly adding the parsley oil. 

Plating  

1. Take your plates of jelly out of the refrigerator 

2. Place a circular disc on the jelly and put 1.5cm of tomatoes and 1.5cm of marinated prawn inside. Remove the circle. 

3. Finish with a few dots of parsley mayo and a few dots of salmon roe. 

source

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