Pascal Aussignac is a chef who – by his own admission – doesn’t do concepts. “I don’t like the word,” he says simply. And he doesn’t “do” ego: “We are just about happiness.” Instead, he is a man of innate pragmatism and tactility who takes the rich, bold and flavourful specialities of Gascony – foie gras, blood sausage, prunes, Armagnac – and reimagines unadorned country cooking into dishes that are interesting and exquisite.
Born in Toulouse, Aussignac always wanted to work with his hands – initially as a stonecutter (“my real passion when I was nine”) until he found his calling whilst working in local kitchens. His dedication impressed and, at 14 years old, he enrolled in a cooking school in Bordeaux. But it was mentor Gerard Vie, a respected chef at Les Trois Marches, in Versailles, who persuaded his parents to let him leave school at 17 to pursue a culinary career. By the age of 25, after training with Vie and French masters Alain Dutournier and Guy Savoy, Aussignac knew he wanted to open his own restaurant. Undeterred by cautious French banks unwilling to back a talented but young chef, Aussignac brought the no-nonsense Gascon cuisine of southwest France to London where he found a willing audience.