Personalities involved in a culinary adventure: SaQuaNa and Pascade staff alongside Alexandre Bourdas. Staff

My sous-chef Sadayuki (I call him Sada) has been supporting me for years, he is my partner and the cornerstone of SaQuana. Frédéric, another loyal employee, supervises the dining room so that everything is rigorous and right. He is accompanied by Aurélien and Ronan, our sommelier. By my side, I have Yann and Gaetan – specialized chefs, Théophile – assistant, Mickael – trainee and Justine – pastry chef. They make up my everyday kitchen. Aïssata and Zakaria are in charge of laundry and dishwashing. Since Aurélie is the assistant, she keeps the whole machinery running. That’s SaQuaNa’s staff led by Delphine with whom I share my days, my enthusiasms and my culinary adventures.

A restaurant is a living space for everyone, from the kitchen staff to the customers. SaQuaNa’s staff broke up the borders that separate the dining room from the kitchen. The kitchen opens out to the dining room which is in perfect harmony with the kitchen. Everything is part of a continuity which sets the pace of the kitchen. It changes depending on the number of guests and staff in the kitchen. We move forward together. I give the idea for a dish, a gourmand thought, and the staff takes over. A dish is made up of ingredients in perfect harmony and the staff has personalities that complement each other.  We all follow the same movement. Solidarity, mutual assistance and complementarity prevail.

Cod charm, sea bream, sole, sardine, mackerel, Alexandre Bourdas, at SaQuaNa and Pascade, loves all types of fish. Fish

Multiple, generous, delicate, thick, rebel and flavourful, I love all types of fish!  As a child, I used to fish bouidels in Aveyron, these are small fish that we ate fried. As I grew older, I became passionate about trout. Today I am an amateur fisherman, but a passionate chef who enjoys cooking fish.  Aveyron river is poor in fish species but my father who was crazy about fish introduced me to this fascinating animal and when I began cooking, I was particularly attracted to cooking fish. However, I had a click when I first visited Japan, for its marine culture, its philosophy and its deep commitment to nature and the animal world.

Cod is a popular animal that I find on various seashores, but I am completely nuts about mackerel, sardine and sole. Saying this, I realise that I am interested, attracted and touched by all of them. My father always tells me that I can do everything with fish and that is what sparked my curiosity to the point where I explore various ways to work with, to cook and to combine fish.  I take a real pleasure in fishing, preparing and cooking fish and progressively a ceremonial set up in my kitchen: I need a quality fish, the right working tool, the pleasure of gesture and finally the transformation of this noble material. On the SaQuana menu, there are 5 out of 6 fish dishes: from a delicate broth to a soft meat with a pinch of Asian, Aveyron or Oriental expressions. However, I should admit that I also like the coarse flesh of the meat.

Every day my knowledge grows deeper and more precise and that make me care about endangered species. It’s this real respect between fish and me that enriched my knowledge, freed me up, allowed me to dare and boldly express all the wealth of the oceans.

For Alexandre Bourdas, at SaQuana and Pascade, salad changes every day. The salad dressing changes every day depending on the mood and the season at SaQuana and Pascade, Alexandre Bourdas' restaurants. Salad

Like a personal diary, salad takes the shape and colour of the day. At SaQuana, salad is at the heart of the meals: from the beginning, there are puffed pancake, bread and a bottle on the table. Then, between the main dish and cheese, there is a salad as an important transition. It is never served on individual plate, but it comes in a large salad bowl so that the guests can help themselves, serve others and share it. I wanted the salad to be a part of the rhythm of the meal and to give it its nobility, thanks to its natural juice. Recreation and leisure activity go together in this case. As a child, my father wanted me to make the dressing with 1 table spoon of vinegar, 3 table spoons of oil, salt, pepper and 1 table spoon of the cooking juice from the Sunday roast. However, every day I fancy changing the dressings, focusing on the seasons, mixing salad hearts and leaves and I like to adapt the story of this salad as I consider that it is a dish where I can play around and express myself.

In my kitchen, I decided to keep my passion of cooking as a team to create this salad so that it’s always the same but always different, influenced by mood and desire of the day.

Delicately crunchy, subtly sweetened, the puffed pancake is home to all sweet and savoury preparations. Puffed pancake, a prelude to a meal at SaQuana, reinvention of the traditional puffed pancake from Aveyron pascade

I love it since childhood, I do not know how to cook without it and it’s been on the menu at SaQuaNa from day one. This puffed pancake is made with eggs and flour and its name alludes to Easter meals in my home region. This puffed pancake goes from yellow to brown, with a regular and random outline, it is soft and nourishing.  Puffed pancake inspires sharing and humility, a universal bread traditions. Sprinkled with chives and truffle oil, it starts the meal and invites the palate to try unusual flavours and textures.  Perfectly balanced, easy to cook, Pascade is the home of the puffed pancake, with compositions I make for SaQuaNa.  Like a nest or a cocoon, puffed pancake hosts seafood or meat-based preparations, rich in vegetables, fruits and other delicacies. Depending on the mood, sea bream can be combined with other seafood, lively notes of chilli and lime, leg of lamb can be served with sour notes of fromage blanc and grapefruit, it is lighted up by celery seeds and chard stalks. The coffee can be presented as an Italian ice cream which soft texture compete with chocolate mousse and water whipped cream, not to mention the crunchy hazelnuts.

Puffed pancakes binds me to my history, family and land made up of my childhood games and parties where everyone took pleasure in sharing the essential.

Alexandre Bourdas' apple tart, a delight and an exercise in style. Alexandre Bourdas' apple tart, at SaQuana and Pascade: indulgence and rigour. The apple pie focuses on fundamental features that are found in my cuisine: indulgence, technique, sharing, rigour and product knowledge. Tart

"Make me an apple tart and I'll tell you who you are" This slightly provocative phrase might make you smile, but it nevertheless perfectly expresses the chef's mood.  The apple tart he made when he was a child is his first culinary gesture. He even made it with the help of a baker and was very proud to remove it from the oven.

Since childhood, apple tart brings together many fundamental features that are found in my cuisine: indulgence, technique, sharing, rigour and product knowledge. I inherited my demanding nature from my grandmother who used to make a unique dough for her tarts: between shortbread and shortcrust. Often imitated but never exactly the same, even with the same ingredients and proportions. The difference is probably due to the warmth of the hand. I also inherited the pastry recipe from my mother who used to make the tart that was intended for the next day, the day before. We expected it with wild hope especially during the evenings of football matches where we used to eat tart up to the end of the night. I therefore inherited taste and the pleasure of tasting as a transgression.

Let's get back to the chef's tart: the chef must find a right balance between fruits, freshness, crunchy and soft. Of course, it should be perfect! In summer, it is time for strawberry tart with lots of cream. So when you set your knife to cut a slice, it sinks into the fruits. There is also lemon tart that I make every year with a new variation. Finally, all other tarts: tarte Tatin, bourdaloue, tropézienne are made to give, share and taste. Together.

Alexandre Bourdas often exploits the interaction between umami and other flavours. The fifth taste or umami is part of the basis of my creative range. Umami

The fifth taste is part of the basis of my creative range. Even when I do not consciously think about it, I use a lot of ingredients rich in umami and I regularly exploit the synergies between umami and other foods. The fifth taste is a key point of Japanese cuisine. For the past ten years, this word has reached our ears, whereas chefs from all over the world have been using umami in their cuisine for centuries. Umami is able to cover the other four tastes (sweet, acid, salty and bitter), it enhances flavours and creates harmony between them.

Umami gives the impression of combining tastes and flavours into a sensation coming from the back of the tongue to the nose by creating a very enjoyable and soft feeling that opens the appetite. It’s by tasting samples of dashi with a Japanese friend, who called the feeling I experienced as "umami", that made me realise the power of the fifth taste. I found it so good that I wanted more.

This experience is the basis of my knowledge of umami which since then, I have constantly been perfecting. Umami can be used to enhance or make ingredients milder, but it requires moderation and subtlety, just like sour and sweet tastes, it is not good when used in excess.

I have been invited to speak about umami by chef Yoshiro Murata in a book which should become a reference book on the subject. With forewords by American chef Thomas Keller, and Harold McGee, history, technique and food chemistry expert. “Umami, the fifth taste” is published by Japan Publishing Trading and brings together the contributions and recipes of 10 international chefs:  Heston Blumenthal (The Fat Duck, United-Kingdom), Alexandre Bourdas (Sa.Qua.Na, France), Michael Anthony (Gramercy Tavern, United States), David Kinch (Manressa, United States), Virgilio Martinez (Central, Peru), Pedro Miguel Schiaffino (Malabar, Peru), Nobu Matsuhisa (Notu, Japan), Yoshihiro Murata (Kikunoi, Japan), Regis Cursan (Nobu, United-Kingdom) and Keiko Nagae (France).

Alexandre Bourdas' gesture and tools at SaQuaNa and Pascade to grate, grill and cut. Only a few rare tools are really necessary in the kitchen. Only a few rare tools are necessary to grate, grill and cut. For the rest, a hand with the right gesture and the right rhythm are enough. Gesture

My cuisine requires the sense of touch, smell and taste. By allowing the appliances to do the work, we lose the direct relation with the product.  I use a few hundred tools, some very common, others more bizarre were adopted during my journey and sometimes diverted from their proper use: ikebana scissors, fireplace grate, carpenter rasp...

To make a cauliflower cream emulsion, I have to use an appliance, however if I make a powder for a condiment, I prefer to chop the lemon zest by hand because I obtain a particle texture.  When we try to get the right taste, every detail counts. My mom used to say, "It does not take more time to do things right."  Obviously, it took hours of concentration to reproduce the same gesture, polishing the movement and pace, but if you give it up, you fall into approximation.

I have been improving my cutting for over 20 years. I started by observing Masaaki Yokusa sharpen his knives. Before that, I used to cut, chop, shred and mash...Then, I asked Masaaki to teach me.  I have not only learned that every knife should be sharpened in a very precise way, but also that everything is important: the chef's hand preference, the edge of the knife, cutting angle, size of the knife compared to food and the properties of the food. We cannot cut a turnip that is very hard the same way that we would cut an apple.

Respecting the product means having a good tool and doing the right gesture.  Let's take a box of spinach, for example. Most people grab the large stem with one hand and pull the leaf with the other hand ... they remove the fibres.  Therefore, you have to slide your finger along the stem so as to gently tear off the leaf, for that I use a knife.  I get beautiful leaves which can be stored longer, and on the palate we get a nice consistency.

It’s not a matter of principle why we season fish with salt, but it’s for the taste. Most people simply put salt on both sides which makes some parts too salty and others not salty enough. However, salting means evenly covering the whole surface of the food. This is a gesture that you do with your wrist and with dry hands so as to feel the quantity of salt which is dropping. Every detail counts!

Alexandre Bourdas went from kitchen chef to site manager at his restaurant in Honfleur, SaQuana. Alexandre Bourdas went from kitchen chef to site manager at his restaurant in Honfleur, SaQuana. Chef

While SaQuaNa closed its doors for a long period of renovation, it allowed me to close off 10 years of cooking and 2 Michelin stars, life has reminded me not to take anything for granted. My project was to redesign the restaurant so that our guests and staff can enjoy every moment in our restaurant even more.

Alongside Thierry Chalaux, who is in charge of the architecture and Jean-Marie Lacombe who makes fabulous wooden furniture, I became a chef. What do you think?  I went from kitchen chef to site manager. And there, I learned about construction, human being, resistance to a new project. Anyway, I've been living with the different teams for months, supporting, checking, adjusting, shouting, crying as well as laughing with them.

I learned that: nothing can be improvised, control is essential, training is not superfluous, time is lost and gained, and life is made up of these forward or backward steps. Afterwards, we realise that in these days, tears, difficulties and giggles are necessary. I also learned that human being can be tamed every day and they want to do well. Just like in the kitchen! I knew it, I relearned it, I remembered, I understood and I am ready to return to my kitchen.