After 14 weeks of competition, Mathieu was eliminated from "Top Chef". The cook, who participated in the M6 culinary competition with his brother Jacques, failed just before the final against Danny and Hugo. Protégé of Glenn Viel, the one who is at the head of the best restaurant in New Zealand was able to show the full extent of his talent week after week. He confides in this adventure.
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TVMAGAZINE. - How did you react when you were eliminated?
MATHIEU: My brother Jacques had joined me for the verdict and, when I raised the bell, there was the color orange meaning that I was tied with another candidate. At that moment, I knew I wasn't going to make it to the final, I didn't feel it. I had screwed up two events out of three so I didn't have too much hope. François-Régis Gaudry and Paul Pairet had to choose between the three proposals and they took Hugo. It was a fair decision. I accepted the defeat even though I obviously wanted to go to the final. I was very happy for Hugo and Danny.
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How did these semi-finals go?
Danny asked us to revisit traditional French dishes with molecular techniques. I knew it wouldn't be easy for me because I couldn't remember the percentage of some recipes. It is a cuisine that I have not done for many years, it does not suit me. Danny played well because he managed to destabilize me with this ordeal. Maybe I should have revised my techniques before the competition... Then I imposed a pheasant pie and they both managed to beat me: hats off! It must be said that I made the stupid, I said to make a pie – where we usually put floors – and, me, I made a pie just closed with meat and sauce ... Then there was the endive with its root imposed by Hugo. I think I won that event. As soon as I tasted it, the theme inspired me enormously.
Why did you want to do this contest?
I was in New Zealand and had just done "MasterChef" there as a guest conductor, when someone from the production of "Top Chef" asked me to participate in the competition. At first, I didn't want to, I had a lot of things to do. Jacques had also been contacted and didn't want to either. I was with friends who told me it was a great opportunity and convinced me to do it. I called Jacques to tell him and explain that we would be able to work together again and laugh. He phoned me five minutes later to say he was up for it. We went through the castings without preparing and, in the end, I'm very happy to have done it. I was able to join my brother and meet many chefs.
"First I wanted to find Jacques and create memories together."
Mathieu, contestant of "Top Chef"
What did you come to look for when you participated?
First I wanted to find Jacques and create memories together. We went through a lot together: we launched our career in France before leaving with nothing in Australia and then in New Zealand. I wanted to write another story with him. More personally, instinctive and improvisational cooking is unfamiliar to me. I like to create dishes and take my time. I like research: going into nature for example, seeing wild products and then being in the reflection. I knew that doing something instinctive would bring me only positive things as a cook.
Have you ever done a contest?
I never thought I would do a competition in my life! I've always done my thing on my own. I'm not used to putting myself forward. Rather than selling myself, I prefer that my actions speak for me. That's what happened with my restaurant in New Zealand, I let people come and talk. That's the thing I'm most proud of. It's now the best restaurant in New Zealand and my brother was involved in that too.
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Can it be considered a three-star Michelin star?
We have three Hats but if it was the three Michelin stars, we would have to enter into certain codes such as having a tablecloth for example. We are apart. For example, we offer a special dessert. I retrieve a deer head that I clean and I offer ice in it with reformed horns and a red sauce reminiscent of blood. So these are things that are a bit tragic and at the same time artistic and dark. What I like to propose in the kitchen are simple things with a different look to honor the dead animal. A lot of people criticize me but I'd rather be myself than pretend.
Did you know "Top Chef"?
Yes, when I was in France, I knew but, as I worked, I couldn't really watch. On the other hand, I watched the previous season because I had passed the casting. I wanted to know more.
What did the contest bring you?
It taught me a lot about instinctive cooking. Afterwards, I know that it will never be me, I like too much to be in the reflection and to make tests but it is a huge help, it allows me to go faster in the executions. And most of all, I loved Glenn Viel, my brigade leader. He has a specific vision of things at the level of the palate, textures, he taught me a lot.
Glenn Viel and Mathieu during season 14 of "Top Chef" on M6. Julien Theuil/M6
What bond did you make?
We were very real to each other: when it sucked we said it to each other and when it was successful too. There was no barrier. If he didn't smell something, he would tell me cash. In these cases, I immediately forgot what I had thought to listen to his advice because he has a much better level than mine. My greatest win on "Top Chef" is meeting Glenn Viel.
Are you still in touch?
Yes, we send each other a message from time to time but I leave him alone because he is very busy. He offered me to come and do an internship in his restaurant. I asked him if I could bring Jacques back and he said yes so we'll go see him to work.
"I've received a lot of negative comments on social media because I defend hunting."
Mathieu, contestant of season 14 of "Top Chef".
Did being on television stress you out?
During the shooting, I always paid close attention to what I said, I only let go towards the end. I was afraid of things like
"we know him because he said this or that" or negative things that don't reflect my personality. I've received a lot of negative comments on social media because I defend hunting. But I don't care because it fits my personality and what I like. I was apprehensive about having negative things about things that don't suit me.
You said you lost 7 kg during the contest...
It was stress... But today I took it all back.
What are your plans?
In September, I will leave New Zealand to join Jacques in his restaurant in Marbella. There are a lot of clients and my goal would be to bring it up to the top level. At the same time, we'll see if we have opportunities in France. We wish to walk here but we do not have a specific project, it all depends on the proposals we receive: collaboration, dinner with 4 or 6 hands ... We would like to open a restaurant in France one day.
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You remotely launched the ephemeral restaurant of the restaurant war Cantina Francesa...
I had Jacques, Carla and Jean on the phone every day. The restaurant was very successful, we had a lot of requests so we will certainly relaunch it another time every four of us. I don't know when, but we'll do it. I really want to.
Have you decided to leave New Zealand since the filming of "Top Chef"?
Clearly! Without the competition, I would continue to work in New Zealand and Jacques in Spain. We've always worked well together, we complement each other a lot so I understood that it was a bit silly not to stay together. So the goal is to come together.