The idea behind my cooking is to create a real taste experience with stripped-back ingredients. I'd like to discover the joy of cooking.
Léa Linster Restaurant, Luxembourg
Five questions for Léa Linster
In 1989 you became the first and, to date, only woman to win the pre-eminent Bocuse d’Or culinary competition. Was this achievement the most important moment of your career?
Léa Linster: Yes, I won the prize at a time when it seemed impossible for a woman to win it. That ranks extremely highly in the professional world. But to me, personally, it wasn't so important to achieve something as a woman or in spite of being one. A female French master chef once told me that, to be successful in the gastronomic world, you have to be like a man. What a notion, eh?
You work in a men's world. How do men and women differ in the kitchen?
Léa Linster: I think men have a more intellectual approach, while women are more spontaneous and emotional. Ideally, it should be a mix of both. Because, in the long run, you won't get very far without thinking about it.
When you cook you convey an air of effortless, of loving your job. How much hard work is there behind it all?
Léa Linster: Fortunately, my job is also my vocation. I don't see it as work, so it doesn't bother me. You need to understand that, for me, cooking is the most beautiful and simplest thing in the world. By contrast, I found it much harder to build up a business based on my cooking and then to maintain the business at a certain level.
As a working chef you have now largely retired from the scene. What projects are you working on currently?
Léa Linster: At the moment I'm concentrating on writing books and on television shows. Both of these allow me to pass on my many years of experience as a chef. I'm also heavily involved in the charity project Nestwärme (Nest Warmth), which helps people to look after critically ill or disabled children.
If you were a spice or a herb, which one would it be and why?
Léa Linster: I'd be an Espelette chilli pepper. With its fruity aroma, vibrant sharpness and saltiness, this chilli pepper makes a dish spicy but not too hot.