Dominique Frérard, la transmission plus que tout. © DR

Dominique Frérard, Benjamin Mathieu

  • Supporting young talent


If he hadn’t been a chef, Dominique Frérard would have liked to write for L’Equipe, but life had other plans for this would-be sports journalist, propelling him instead to the top of a kitchen brigade. In his 25 years at Les Trois Forts, the Sofitel Vieux Port restaurant, Frérard has developed a close rapport with his team. “These are my colleagues, not my pupils,” he stresses. “I don’t give lessons; I’m part of a learning process”. Illustrious former trainees include Marseille-born chef Frédéric Duca, who returned from a stint in New York earlier this year to open his own restaurant in Batignolles, Paris, and Cyrille Repetto at the Golden Tulip in Marseille, not to mention “dozens of other young chefs over the years, maybe more than a hundred”.
Born 60 years ago in the Ardennes region of northeast France, Frérard was raised on his grandmother’s cooking, who ran the kitchens of the well-to-do, and that of his mother, “an accomplished cook and host”. It was while working in Saint-Martin-de-Vésubie, in the Nice hinterland, that he discovered his passion for Italian-Provençal cuisine. His signature style blends pure Provençal tradition with a contemporary twist – a refined gourmet cuisine based on an unwavering belief that “to love cooking you need a passion for hospitality and passing on your knowledge; this is a job that requires generosity”.

Benjamin Mathieu
Benjamin Mathieu is just one such generous chef who cut his teeth with Frérard. Born in the Notre-Dame-du-Mont area of Marseille, he earned his stripes at Baumanière before joining Eric Frechon at Le Bristol, followed by a spell in New York and then in Paris as a consultant to the Costes brothers’ empire. Before returning to his hometown and dropping anchor at the nhow Marseille, Benjamin went back to see his mentor. The pair cooked together – a perfect reintroduction to Mediterranean cuisine. Ever since, Benjamin Mathieu, like other Frérard protégés, has blazed his own trail under the supportive eye of his former ‘boss’.

Par Pierre Psaltis