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Luc Debove: local roots and global ideas

Luc Debove won many prestigious international awards and earned the status of Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF). He now travels the world as a consultant and demonstrator for Les vergers Boiron.

Nowadays, you’re constantly travelling the world, but I couldn’t help notice, when reading your life story, that you’ve always been rooted in Southern France.

It’s true. I was born in the old city of Nice to a family of bakers and pastry makers. My great grandfather ran the shop and my family lived in the same building for generations. To give you an idea, my ancestors voted for Nice to become French in 1859. So, I stayed true to the family tradition, training at the Ecole Escoffier in Cagnes-sur-Mer, graduating in 1987, and then did an apprenticeship at the Pâtisserie Cappa in Nice. After that, I worked for 10 years at the Casino Ruhl in Nice as pastry sous-chef where I really developed my passion. Chef Alain Falsini took me under his wing and mentored me to do a Master’s degree in pastry making, which really boosted my career.

That brings us to 1998 and your career really takes off.

Indeed, I begin to teach at the regional trade school to students who are doing the same Master’s degree that I’ve just got and I become Pastry Chef at the Méridien Beach Hotel in Monaco for six years. I then do a one-year stint at Royal Riviera Hotel in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. I make a first attempt, in 2004, to become a Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF), my country’s most demanding cooking competition. I fail in the final stage, but on the basis of my performance, I’m hired to teach at the Bellouet Conseil gastronomy school in Paris.
That’s where I literally become a competition addict. I crave for the adrenalin rush that I get when I face off with other cooks in front of a jury and I love the physical and psychological preparation that these contests require. I manage to win several national titles, but I fail once again in the final stage of the MOF in 2007! In 2011, everything comes together: I win the Grand Finale of the Gelato World Tour in Rimini, Italy and then just five days later, I finally succeed in becoming a MOF, thanks to the support of my parents and lifelong friends. In fact, awards and distinctions are of course very gratifying, but what really counts are the people I’ve met and above all the support I got from those who always believed in me and drove me to go beyond myself.

What’s the best memory you have in competition?

Apart from the MOF, the highlight for me is in 2007, in Andernos-les-Bains, near Arcachon. At the French national contest, working in front of thousands of people, I can see that my two-meter ice sculpture is about to come crashing down. I have no other choice but to cut it in two to try and stabilize it. Everyone thinks that it’s all over, but I manage to straighten up and stabilize the sculpture. A huge cheer goes up from the crowd and I win my first national title. What makes it special is that my parents were there to see it all happening! But beyond these memorable events, what I love most is to create links to the tastes and aromas of my childhood years, like the caramel I relished and the memory of the correcto (aniseed-flavored coffee served in the Piedmont region of Italy). This was my inspiration for one of my entremets desserts at the MOF, a way of paying tribute to my childhood roots.

And these days, do you still participate in competitions?

No, because as a MOF, I’m no longer allowed to compete directly, but I participate in numerous competitions as a coach and consultant. It’s just as satisfying as competing directly, especially in ice sculpting where there’s an enormous amount of solidarity and mutual support, almost a kinship between us, even when we’re fiercely competing. That’s what I really thrive on. Beyond that, I now travel the world as a consultant, which has been the focus of my professional activities for over a year now. In that job, I still work live in front of fellow professionals, which is as pleasurable as competing in that you always have to innovate and come up with the unexpected. And, of course, you must never go wrong!

And you also work with Les vergers Boiron as a demonstrator?

Indeed, and this connection is a significant part of my consulting work. In fact, I’ve always worked with Les vergers Boiron products because their quality is undeniable. On top of that, there are two essential things in our relationship. First, I only support and promote the products I like and that I really use. Second, and most importantly of all, I appreciate the open dialogue we have with each other. Several years ago, I found that one of the vergers Boiron purées wasn’t perfectly balanced. We talked about it and it was modified. Like me, Les vergers Boiron know that you always have to remain open and modest, and above all continue to listen to the advice of professional colleagues, even when you’re well-known and appreciated, as are Les vergers Boiron worldwide!

May 2018