Photos: ALINA SEPP
Text: KATYA ULITINA
Hervé Palmieri is a chef and a creator of the Hervé Cuisine channel about the art of simple and delicious meals. Over a cup of cappuccino, Hervé told us how to make a healthy snack when in a hurry, where to start a culinary blog and which Korean restaurant you need to go to in Paris.
How did you realise that cooking was your calling?
I have been cooking since I was a little boy: my parents encouraged me to bake pastries, pancakes and other simple dishes. I am from a small town in the South of France, and right after school, I started to live separately from my parents. So I simply did not have any choice, I had to cook for myself, and that is where everything began. I enjoyed buying cookbooks, I was signed up for culinary flyers that were mailed - at that time such a subscription cost around 10 francs, and every month I received a recipe. I cut out recipes from magazines, and I also had a thick notebook with my mom's ones at home. At some point, I realised that I was taking an incredible pleasure from cooking not only for myself but for other people. I began to reunite my university friends at home more often. We cooked pies, tarts, carbonara paste, all kind of various simple student dishes, and my friends really loved it! And then I realised how the cooking process can bring people together, and how a good meal can make a party much better.
How did an idea of a food blog come up?
When I was twenty-five, I started working in marketing, and I did not have time to do anything else as the workday was quite long. I thought that I needed an activity for myself besides the work. So I decided to start a food blog as it was something that I could do really well. Ten years ago there were not so many blogs on the Internet, and I noticed that not so many people in France were filming amateur videos. So one day I came home from work and chose a simple chocolate fondant recipe. I had a small camera, which I put on a washing machine and started filming myself. It was terrible - I was embarrassed, shy, such a nightmare! But in the end, I made a video with the recipe of the fondant and put it on Youtube.
I discovered the world of blogs, I learnt how to edit videos and create blog pages with HTML code - that time there were no simple platforms for site creations. I especially liked the technical side of the process, and as I progressed, I bought different devices for shooting, lighting and sound, switched to an HD camera and so on. Today it is already a small company that I manage, with contracts, companies and all the rest of it. In parallel, I have always worked in marketing, and I still do. I try not to turn my blog into a routine, to keep enthusiasm and inspiration.
What distinguish you from the other food bloggers?
I am one of the rare «broad-format» chefs. Some food bloggers specialise in baking, others in main courses, but only a few of them do both. Plus, there are meals from all over the world on my channel. You can find Thai, French, African and Maghreb cuisine on it. There are very simple recipes from three ingredients, but also complex multilayer cakes. There are both vegan recipes and recipes with meat. So I'm an expert in a wide culinary profile in all senses! I try to embrace everything, try everything. The only thing I try to avoid is the fast food recipes. Fast food does not fit in my lifestyle, I try to eat well. I cook classic pastry and sweets, but I try to ensure the balance with healthy food.
What food bloggers and chefs inspire you?
Initially, I had an interest in work of famous media chefs, like Jamie Oliver. His style is very casual and dynamic at the same time.
I also stay in touch with French chefs and bakers. It is always interesting to get acquainted with them. I am inspired by the exchange of experience, the mixture of tastes and techniques.
Cooking is your job. Do you still have time to cook for yourself and your loved ones?
There are different periods in my life. Sometimes I don’t feel like cooking, so I dine out - this happens to me as well! (Laughs). Now there is a period when I cook for myself a lot. Recently, I mostly enjoy baking seasonal vegetables: I buy different kinds of cabbage, parsnips, carrots, beets ... I put them sprinkled with olive oil and spices in the oven at 180°C. In an hour I сome back from the gym, and the perfect dinner is ready! Quick and simply delicious.
You have already written several books. How does this format differ from blogging?
My videos somehow helped me to write a book. For me, video is the best format to explain the recipe. With a book, it’s different. If there is even a small detail missing in the written recipe, a person can make a mistake easily. So I write my books just as I explain the recipes aloud in my videos. It's a hard job, writing 80 recipes takes much time, but it's definitely worth it.
Is there such a thing as «Parisian cuisine»?
Perhaps thirty or forty years ago there was an authentic cuisine of Parisian bistros, but today Paris is such a multinational city! On the streets of Paris, one can find so many people of different cultures and nationalities, and in Parisian culinary arts it is the same thing. In Paris, you can literally make a food tour around the world.
Nowadays I observe a return to traditional meals in the French cuisine. I think this will be the subject of my next book: homestyle French recipes, a new look at the cultural heritage.
What are your favourite restaurants in Paris?
I am really fond of 11th and 20th arrondissements of Paris - there are so many interesting restaurants there. I like Mme Shawn, a Thai restaurant in Upper Marais, near Marché des Enfants Rouges. I am also keen on the three Korean food restaurants by Pierre Sang on the Oberkampf street. Pierre Sang, the chef, opened three restaurants one next to another, and when you dine there, you do not know what’s on your plate. While eating, you need to concentrate on your sensations and try to guess what the ingredients are. Before you are served with the next the next dish, the chef tells you what the composition of the dish was. Such an unusual experience! I also like bento Nanashi because of its relaxed atmosphere and healthy products. When I want a delicious couscous, I go to L'homme bleu on Jean-Pierre Thimbaud street. This is a real traditional cuisine - as if you get away to Morocco for one night! Finally, I enjoy eating out in the Italian and French restaurants on Montorgueuil street.
What is it, a typical dinner of French cuisine - a starter, a main course, a dessert?
If we had a three-course meal today, I would make a dinner with all the seasonal food. For a starter, I would cook a salad with roasted asparagus, egg and olive oil. I would choose Beef bourguignon (if you eat meat, otherwise I would pick a vegetarian dish) with some tasty Camargue rice. Of course, a cheese plate with a crispy baguette - we are in France, after all! I would also serve different leaves of salad with spices to the cheese plate like we do it in the South. And for dessert ... oh, the choice is so wide! I think I'd make a lemon pie with meringues - a classic French dessert! The delicate balance between sour and sweet, with a gentle meringue at the top - simply perfect.
And what kind of cuisine is your favourite one?
I do have a soft spot for Indian cuisine! When I used to live in the States, I worked in an Indian restaurant to pay university fees. I sorted spices and herbs there, and the smell wrapped the room like a delicate veil. Since then, I'm in love with Indian food. I also love Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. In general, I enjoy trying everything new and unusual.
And do your origins somehow affect your culinary experiments?
They surely do! I have Italian origins on my father's side and Vietnamese ones from my mother's side. I often experiment with spices and herbs - coriander, mint, basil. I always bring some Alpine rosemary and tomato sauce whenever I get a chance to come back home to my parents’ house. And I adore cooking homemade pizza!
Could you please share some quick and healthy recipes for breakfast or snack - for those on who are always in a rush?
Among my recipes, there are lemon muffins that have little fat and sugar. If you store them in food film, they will remain soft for several days or can even be frozen. Another excellent option is homemade granola with oatmeal, dried fruits and nuts. You will need to chop dried fruits and nuts, mix them with oatmeal, honey or agave syrup and put it in the oven. You can take them with you when planning an interview on a rainy day! (Laughs) For breakfast, I like low-fat pancakes, it's especially good to make them with whole-grain flour, so that there are a lot of fibres. There is one interesting recipe for a chocolate cake with stevia instead of sugar, and with a peeled zucchini instead of butter! You can not taste the zucchini at all, the cake has a rich chocolate flavour.
" I am one of the rare «broad-format» chefs.
You can find Thai, French, African and Maghreb cuisine on it. There are very simple recipes from three ingredients, but also complex multilayer cakes.
So I'm an expert in a wide culinary profile in all senses! I try to embrace everything."