December 15, 2019
The enfant terrible of French cooking
The son of a military man, Guillaume Sanchez grew up in a barracks in Bordeaux with his family until, at the age of 13, he felt an aversion to his surroundings and decided to quit school and train as a pastry chef. Although he was good at school, when he was 12 and a half, he went to work with a 65-year-old baker who transmitted to him a love for the job. (This sounds like the way Carême started out...).
For five years he learned and worked with Les Compagnons du Devoir, a lay organisation that trains teenagers in a variety of trades. He mastered the techniques he was taught so quickly that he ended up teaching new arrivals, and began winning competitions. His desire to grow and discover new places took him to Paris, where he honed his skills and was given top jobs at well-known pâtisseries, such as Ladurée and Dalloyau.
At the age of 23 he left everything to open a tea salon/tattoo parlour (!) with a friend. Called Horror Picture Tea, he worked there for just a year. Those days left a very particular physical mark on him; tats related to the world of cooking. He doesn’t like to be judged on his looks, but there’s no denying that his tattooed skin – right up to his forehead – can be seen as a visible sign of his rebellious side.
After 14 months travelling in the Balkans and Central Asia, he published a book entitled The Architecture of Sense and Taste, and took part in his first TV competition: Who will be the Next Big Pastry Chef? The format was too restrictive for him and he was soon eliminated, but his striking looks made an impression on social networks and endowed him with fame that he was able to use in 2015 to open his first restaurant, Nomos, despite having no experience of cooking savoury food. He admits that it was a radical and rather ‘aggressive’ project; for example, he combined a kohlrabi brioche with grapefruit (thanks to his love for all things bitter).
He changed course when he took part in Top Chef 2016, where he became totally famous, although he was eliminated halfway through the competition.
The story repeated itself. After not making it in the competition, but finding fame once again, Guillaume Sanchez launched another restaurant, NeSo, which this time was a knock-out success and was awarded a Michelin star last year.
Without giving up his unrestrained, almost punk-like style of cooking – as he boldly described it a few months ago at one of the pop-ups he organised at the Parisian department store Le Bon Marché – NeSo has been able to strike a balance between the disruptive food he serves and better business management. The restaurant is now doing so well that he has just opened NeSo 2, a cocktail and tapas bar just opposite his eatery.
His goal, for the moment, is to be present at his restaurant with his team, keep an eye on his bar, and refuse – should they come his way – consulting projects around the world. He himself says that today’s generation of French cooks must be focused and be creative in their own country. And, last but not least, he wants to enjoy just having become a father. Mature words from this singular enfant terrible of French cooking.