You have 27 restaurants around the world. What do you say to people who feel too intimidated to go to a restaurant with three Michelin stars?
I have only three restaurants with three stars. But we must not demonize haute cuisine, just as we must not demonize haute couture. All of it is actually very accessible. There are no barriers to everyone being able to come and eat in a fine-dining restaurant, unless you mean the price barrier. And I do food that goes from $10 to 400 euros.
Your latest cookbook, Nature, seems a departure from French cuisine there's almost no butter. Does this reflect a change in the way you think we should be eating?
This book is a culmination of the direction I have taken not just recently but forever, which is local sourcing, taking care of your health and simple cooking. We have to consume more grains, more cooked and raw local vegetables and less animal protein, and we have to eat local. With animal protein, it's good for it to be protein that comes from the sea sustainable fish, for example.
What do you like to cook that is local to America?
We recommend against meat in this book, but in the U.S., I love the varieties of beef. That's what I find to be typically American: the quality and the cuts of the beef.
In the book, you say that cooking is a love affair and that you have to fall in love with your ingredients. Does this mean you crush them very slowly?
Cooking evokes lots of feelings. The pleasure that we get from doing our shopping is essential to the feeling that we are going to give to the dishes that we prepare.
The French palate and the American palate are pretty different. Is there an American food that you will not eat? Hot dogs? Big Macs?
I eat everything. I think we can understand a society better once we have tasted its popular food. I enjoy hot dogs. They're an exceptional kind of street food. A Big Mac is an approach at a modest price that allows for the greatest number of people to be fed. We must not forget that food costs money, and being able to feed yourself means the need to eat more economically.
How do you feel about molecular gastronomy?
It's 1% of what is eaten in the world. It adds to all that we know about cooking, but it's not my way. My way is local sourcing, natural, extremely unmodified. I am for maintaining the original flavor, not for trying to be original.
Does anybody really like tripe?
Oh, we French people really enjoy our tripe. Just like the Chinese, we eat anything that moves on the face of the earth. But it's pretty much only the French and the Chinese.
What are the five things all cooks should have at hand, no matter where they live?
In my kitchen, I must have the most natural and finest sea salt possible and virgin olive oil from Italy or the south of France. After that, I think you have to have a package of grains, a pasta and a wine vinegar to add tartness.
What about the opposite things people always have but don't need?
There's an ingredient that people always put in way too much of, and that's cinnamon. I like a hint of cinnamon flavor that leaves me guessing. I don't like it when it's too strong.
As a chef, do you have any good tips for those of us who have to wash up?
No, but the problem with cooking is all the work that comes before it and all the work that comes after it. And when I am in my restaurants I am the chef, but at home I am the helper. My wife, she's the chef. I know all about it.