Interview With Nicolas Mazier | A Great Chef
It is undeniable that in order to be a great Chef, you not only need to possess the passion for cuisine, but also a broader vision of what it represents as a living “being” where all the components are connected. It is certainly very rewarding to see the fruits of applying your creativity on a daily basis, the lifelong expansion and prospects of personal and professional advancement. An Executive Chef is responsible for ensuring a pleasant working environment, control food quality and menu design (depending on the seasons and the context of the establishment location) and finally outdo oneself by shaping brand awareness through the most memorable experience possible for each of the restaurant guests. A french born Executive Chef Nicolas Mazier has all the necessary ingredients to make it successfully running the kitchen at a celebrated Spanish Restaurant TATEL Miami located in the heart of South Beach.
- Please, briefly introduce yourself. Who is Nicolas Mazier in your own words?
I was born and raised in South of France, born in Toulouse, raised in Marseille. I completed my culinary studies in Marseille and decided to move to the United States in 2007 to see what was out there and take my chances.
- When and how did you decide you wanted to become a Chef?
My uncle had a restaurant so I grew up in that environment – I used to go to my uncle’s restaurant when I was a kid. From a very young age I already knew I wanted to be a Chef.
- Your current residence is Miami. What inspires you the most from this city?
I love the variety of food – working in Nobu had Southern, Japanese influences… My wife is from Trinidad and that has influenced me as well.
- You’ve had had the opportunity to work in different countries across the globe. How the combination of all those experiences has influenced your career as a chef?
The use of different ingredients, the way people eat, the way people cook, that was what helped me the most in my career.
- Generally speaking, an Executive Chef is responsible for creating menus and developing a brand through a culinary experience. What’s your recipe to successfully manage all this within the team? What do you think is the key to a successful leadership in the kitchen?
The most important factor is my team, because without my team, there is nothing I can do by myself. Luckily, throughout my career, I have great management teams working with me, so that I can focus on different things. Without a team, the chef cannot be successful.
- In the past you worked at Nobu starting as a Junior Sous Chef and in less than a year you were promoted to Head Chef. What’s the secret of such a quick fortunate transition?
It was a mix of hard work and luck that Nobu was expanding so much and opening so many restaurants so I was given the opportunity because of my hard work and determination that paid off.
- You are currently Head Chef at TATEL Miami. How would you describe your input into TATEL’s aim to building global awareness for traditional Spanish cuisine and culture?
I think the main thing in TATEL is that we are not trying to do a mix of Spanish and American, we try to keep it very traditional. Same as what we did in Madrid, we will do it here as well. Of course we have some variation because it’s Miami so we have a few dishes that Madrid does not have, but the dishes are authentic and we keep them the same. We had a team who came from Spain for the first few weeks to help the Sous Chef and I, making sure that the team understand the Spanish cuisine and the way the ingredients work. We also work with ingredients locally sourced from Spain.
- How do you retain the authenticity of Spanish cuisine in TATEL Miami?
We import the products directly from Spain, and there is a recipe that we have to follow, meaning we cannot use substitute ingredients, only authentic ingredients in order to achieve the final product.
- What are the advantages of buying the ingredients from local markets?
I think it is good to support our local vendors and it brings out an extra luxury, for example we buy our ice-cream directly from Spain, even when we can easily get them here.
- Where does your inspiration come from to create culinary proposals?
A lot of my inspiration comes from Nobu, but the good thing about being a Chef is that the basics remains the same, whether it is working in a Spanish restaurant, or being French-trained. For TATEL, I base my inspirations from my experiences in Spain where I traveled for a few months.
- Being rooted in European cuisine, specifically the French traditional culinary school, how do you merge the classical cooking technique with a more contemporary interpretation?
We use a lot of classical cooking techniques here, essentially going back to basics – we don’t really do a lot of contemporary techniques like other restaurants in Spain, it’s just basic traditional cuisine.
- One of the two main elements in the French cuisine is butter, while in the Mediterranean culture is olive oil. What’s the importance for you in those two ingredients?
Yes in France we use a lot of butter, but coming from the South of France, we use a lot of olive oil as well – so it’s not really so much of a change for me.
- What role does innovation play in your process of creation?
I work alongside my Sous Chef because I really want to keep the traditional flavors of Spanish cuisine, but other than that I just start creating something and sometimes I mix ingredients that I’ve never mixed before just to see how it works – it’s not usually 100% calculated moves, just playing around with the ingredients until I get the right one.
- What values do you stand for as a person and how are these being applied through your profession as an Executive Chef?
I respect my co-workers very much and manners are very important to me. I try to apply that in the kitchen environment which is sometimes not a very easy thing. I think people respond better to people who say ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ compared to someone who yells all the time.
- What’s you favorite dish and why?
I don’t have one favorite dish, but one of my top favorites is a traditional dish from my hometown in Marseille – a fish soup which uses 10-15 different types of fish. It reminds me of my roots and where I come from.
- Being a Chef seems to be a profession that takes a lot of hours. How do you find the balance between your professional and personal life? Do you have a favorite ritual to disconnect?
I try to spend as much time as I can with my wife, and I just had a daughter so that changed the way I manage my time. Before, the focus would be to go to work early, but now if I don’t have to, I will spend more time with my family.
- How do you envision your future as a professional?
I have always had a goal since I started culinary school and that is to open my own place, taking all the necessary steps to reach that goal in the future. I just want people to experience my cuisine and emotions through the food. While I have the opportunity to do my own things in the restaurants, at the end of the day I still had to respect the pre-existing cuisine. When I get my own restaurant, I won’t have to follow other people’s guidelines. Modern French would be my choice of cuisine.
- Our motto stands for “You can be, do and have anything you want.” What’s your take on such a statement?
It is true. I am not the perfect example of this statement, but I always knew what I wanted and worked hard for it. I always tell my guys that if I can do it, so can they. I am not smarter than others, I just put my heart into what I want.