For Boubakar Barrie, chef and owner of Bloody French Restaurant in Western Australia's capital of Perth, bread is something he misses the most from his native France.
Born and raised in Versailles, a region known for its beautiful gardens and castles, Barrie has always been surrounded by food and could not imagine life outside of "cheffing".
Barrie tells SBS Food, "I got the passion for cooking from my mum. She had a restaurant back in Paris and I used to go there after school or after football practice. I always used to go in the kitchen to see what was happening. I loved the different smells that used to come out of the kitchen."
As a chef and pastry chef with more than 21 years' experience, working in Paris first, then in London for 11 years, Boarrier opened Bloody French five years ago in the inner western suburb Subiaco of Perth. Here he serves classic French-style dishes like confit duck leg and seafood bouillabaisse, which of course are served generously with a sourdough baguette to mop up any leftover juices.
For people who've been fortunate enough to visit Paris or other modest villages in regional France, one of the greatest activities is visiting a brasserie for lunch for a menu du jour or menu of the day. Wanting to recreate this pastime, Barrie opened the Bloody French Restaurant to bring his food memories to life in bustling Perth.
"What I certainly miss about Paris is my family and friends but more so the architecture and all the different things you have right at your doorstep — the museums and of course, all those little gems of a restaurant where you can have a three-course meal (amazing food as well) for just €18 (AU$28) and a glass of Sancerre wine for €6 (AU$9)," says the chef.
He continues, "It is impossible to find that in Australia, but what I miss the most is my boulangeries (bakeries) where I buy baguettes (in the morning, afternoon and night) and of course pastries like croissants or chausson au pomme (similar to an apple turnover) that I really wholeheartedly miss. My brother is also a pastry chef and I remember he used to always bring home enormous bags filled with croissants, chouquettes and even mille-feuilles from his work. My gosh, what great memories from my childhood."
"Bread is obviously in the French culture and it is certainly in mine. I just love bread as an entree, in the middle of the meal to finish up your sauce on your plate or with cheese for dessert. It is our way of life."
Although stereotypes exist for many cuisines, chef Barrie proves that some stereotypes are indeed true: the French have an affection for crepes. Originating from the rocky and rugged coasts of Brittany, the French have been enjoying crepes since the 13th Century when supposedly a woman accidentally dripped porridge on a hot stovetop and made what we now know as a crepe.
"My favourite childhood memory would have to be crepes. My whole family loved eating them, even the first one which my brother, sister and I would fight over. The first crepe always sticks to the pan and it wasn't so perfect but it did not matter, we loved it," admits Barrie.
Just like the story of the first crepe from Brittany has been passed down from one generation to another, Barrie's crepes have travelled from his mother's restaurant in Paris to his home in Western Australia.
"Now my two sons Emmanuel and Gabriel fight for the first one as well, they love making crepes. Two years ago, I took them to meet their grandmother in France and guess what we made crepes, of course! They cooked crepes with my mum almost every day for four weeks and when we returned home, my wife Jennifer asked them what they wanted for breakfast and guess what the answer was again — crepes!"
Having worked as a pastry chef for many years, Barrie still loves crepes served as he did when he was a child, dusted with sugar.
"My favourite way of eating crepes is just with a little sprinkle of sugar on it while the crepe is still on the pan which allows the sugar to dissolve into a sugary glaze. I also add some lemon zest and to me, this is a dreamland and a happy memory for me which I proudly share with my kids now," says Barrie.
Drawing inspiration from his two culinary heroes, his mum and his brother, Barrie takes the humble crepe to a whole new level offering 'gratinated crepes' as a main.
"At the moment, I serve a vegetarian crepe, which is filled with caramelised shallots, asparagus and topped with bechamel sauce and raclette cheese before I garnish the crepes with roquette salad. Just amazing."
Barrie's French crepes
- 4 eggs
- 250 ml flour
- 500 ml milk
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 pinch sugar
- 50 g butter
- Mix flour, sugar, salt and eggs in a deep bowl. Add your milk and then the butter.
- If you think the mix is a little too thick add just a little more milk, it should be a pouring consistency.
- Over medium heat, add some butter and once it has melted, pour in the crepe mix.
- Swirl quickly to cover the entire crepe pan.
- Repeat with remaining mix and serve warm with sugar and lemon zest.
Poulet Vallée d'Auge originates from Normandy, which is known as the land of butter. I think it is one of the world's best chicken stews.