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JACQUES ROLANCY - Interviewed by Joanne Simon

Published:  23 July, 2008

Chef, Windows Restaurant & Bar, London Hilton on Park Lane. Born and trained in France, chef Jacques Rolancy moved to the UK ten years ago to take over the reins at The Windows Restaurant and Bar in London. It has since won numerous awards, including three AA rosettes. Developing his cuisine lgre style of cooking, Rolancy himself has been awarded the prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) award, his country's highest culinary accolade, becoming only the second chef working in the UK (after Michel Roux) to hold the award.

This must be the best view in London! Actually, they wanted to build the hotel a little higher, but they worked out that with just one more floor you could see into the Queen's bedroom at Buckingham Palace, so they weren't allowed to!

Why did you move to London? I got the opportunity to come to Windows in 1993 and I've been here ever since. And now my wife and I prefer to live in the UK than in France. I think Paris is great for holidays, but we feel more comfortable in London. Also, if I decide to open something for myself one day, I would prefer to do it in the UK than in France.

What's it like to work in a hotel restaurant? Busy! We serve food from seven o'clock in the morning until two the next morning, so we need a big team to do all the shifts. But we have been trying to present ourselves more as a restaurant, rather than a hotel restaurant since last September. We're always brainstorming to come up with new ideas to attract people, and I think it's working, because 77% of our bookings are made by non-hotel guests.

What is a Meilleur Ouvrier de France? MOF is a great competition held every four years. It starts with about 800 candidates and they have to answer around 40 questions to test their general knowledge about food -to prove that they have a bit of curiosity and passion about food. Around 500 people go into the semi-finals, where you have to cook two classical dishes. And then only about 50 people go through to the final, where you have four hours to cook a three-course menu for six people. You know the ingredients one week in advance and then you have three days to decide what to cook. Once you've submitted your menu, you can't change it.

How many of you were successful? There were 17 of us. In this country, I am only the second MOF, after Michel Roux. But I also come from a family with an MOF pedigree, because my father and mother have a charcuterie, and they are both MOFs. I think food is in my blood.

What is your cooking philosophy? As Alain Chapel always said, cooking is more than a recipe. Just because you've got the recipe doesn't mean you can be a great chef. Also, food is not only what you see on the plate - behind it is the chef and the producer. That's why I always try to find the best products; products that have had the best care; products that I respect. For me, as the chef, the great part is the creativity. Taking something raw and producing it on the plate like an artist takes paints starting with nothing and ending up with something beautiful. Sometimes it doesn't work, but it's always fun. The food, the wines, the cigars all our products are made by people with passion, and it's up to us to respect their work.

As a Frenchman, what wine do you like? It was a real discovery when I came to the UK, all this New World wine. In France, you get French wine. We have started listing New World wine here because some of it is very good. But my feeling is that it doesn't have the same charm as French wine. In France, one year can be very good, the next year not so good. That is very exciting. New World wine, year by year, more or less, is going to be the same.

Do you have a favourite region? I don't think you should be fixed on one region. Last year I went, with a friend, to Ardche and we tried some wine. We loved it - so fresh, so beautiful! And you know how much it cost? 2.50. I bought 60 bottles immediately. In fact, I asked for 400, but production is very limited. It's the same when I go to a restaurant. I always want to discover something, so I ask the sommelier to try to surprise me.

You also have a walk-in humidor. We have one of the largest cigar selections in London, with 55 brands. I think it is becoming quite fashionable. Naturally, there are people who want a Cohiba or ask for this or that because it is well known and well publicised. But most people need a little bit more attention, so you need someone who knows cigars well and can recommend something. There's much more to choosing a cigar than I want to take this because my boss smokes it'. But luckily, our sommelier, matre d' and barman all love cigars, and we also do staff training with Hunters & Frankau every few months.

Windows Restaurant & Bar 22 Park Lane London W1K 1BE Tel: 020 7208 4021

Cuisine: Contemporary French Covers: 95; bins: 400 Suppliers: Matthew Clark, Bibendum Average spend on food per person: 50 Average spend on wine per person: 20 Best-selling wine: 1999-2000 Chablis Moreau et Fils, Burgundy, France, 50