The Untold Truth Of Guy Savoy

French-born chef Guy Savoy doesn't make frequent television appearances, even though the Michelin-starred Las Vegas outpost of his eponymously-named Paris restaurant plays a key role in Food Network's Vegas Chef Prizefight; it's also featured in an episode of Prizefight's companion series, Taste of the Strip. But Savoy's influence is literally everywhere, considering that he trained and is considered a mentor to such esteemed celebrity chefs as Alex Guarnaschelli and Gordon Ramsay. "He taught me how to cook," Guarnaschelli told Mashed in an exclusive interview. "He taught me how to think about flavor. Taught me about flavor." Of Savoy, Ramsay has said, "I've never known a chef could bring the sea and the earth together in this amazing, balanced way with an articulated lightness and control" (via New York Restaurant Insider).

Of course, that's not to mention the many other gifted chefs Savoy mentored who simply don't happen to be as well-known. Additionally, Savoy has been cooking in professional spaces since 1980, when he opened Guy Savoy (Paris). The esteemed restaurant earned its first two Michelin stars in 1985 and then three in 2002 (via Michelin Guide). Obviously, we had to know more about this seminal member of the current celebrity chef pantheon. Here is the untold truth of Guy Savoy.

Savoy has made it clear he owes it all to his mother

Savoy is quite clear on who's always been the greatest influence on his esteemed culinary style. "My mother helped me discover my passion and inspired me to become a chef," he told Starchefs in 2008. "I count myself lucky to have a mother who cooks very very well, and very quickly," he said in 2019 during a Michelin Guide interview. 

At first, Savoy took it for granted that all food tasted as good as his mother's. But that changed once Savoy started eating lunch at the homes of his schoolmates. "I quickly realized my luck and I quickly realized the importance of having this pleasure for me. The importance of tasting," he continued.

Savoy's mother not only cooked delicious things for the family, she was also a restauranteur in the small town in France where Savoy grew up. "My mother gave me confidence in the kitchen," he explained to Starchefs. She also taught Savoy the "magic of transformation," meaning, "how to take seasonal ingredients and turn them into pleasure."

The defining moment of Savoy's career involved a sugar cookie

In a 2019 interview for the Michelin Guide, Savoy revealed that the "defining moment" in his cooking career was "when he saw the making of the langue de chat," which the BBC describes as a delicate, French sugar cookie. "Simply put, after mixing salt, sugar, flour, butter and eggs, and after a few minutes of preparation and baking, we have a small biscuit that smells good, that is crispy and delicious," he explained. And from that moment, Savoy recognized that preparing and making food can be a "magical" experience. "Fifty years after having tasted this first langue de chat, I am still amazed by the magic of transformation," he added. 

But there's one thing that Savoy didn't happen to mention during that interview: the fact that it was likely his beloved mother who indoctrinated him into the notion cooking is meant to be something more than the sum of its parts. "I remember my mother making langue de chat cookies on a winter's night when I was a child," he told Starchefs in 2008. "She blended flour and sugar together and produced this crunchy pleasure. It was amazing."

Savoy developed his teamwork skills working under a famous French chef

Many chefs have been influenced by Savoy, whether directly or indirectly through the chefs he's mentored (like Guarnaschelli and Ramsay). But who, besides Savoy's beloved mother, influenced his culinary style? 

The answer is the world-renowned French chef, Pierre Troisgros, who died at age 92 in 2020 (via The New York Times). When Savoy was just 23, he began a three-year apprenticeship to Pierre and his brother, Jean Troisgros, at their famous Masion Troisgros restaurant in Roanne, France (via the Michelin Guide). "Working with Pierre Troisgros was a big change from cooking with my mother," Savoy recalled to Starchefs in a 2008 interview. "We used different products that I had never used like foie gras." 

However, the most "important" thing that Savoy learned while working for the Troisgros brothers was how to be a team player. "The biggest lesson is to take pleasure from working with a team — it's very important to my style," the chef explained. "My mission is to create one single team between the front and the back of the house. This is my true spirit."

Savoy revealed the untold truth about technical skills in cooking

"Cooking is magical," Savoy realized the very first time he saw five simple ingredients transform into a delicate French pastry (via Starchefs), and every experience since then has conspired to convince him that he was absolutely right. "Today, I am even more fascinated by this magic. Good food is magic," Savoy gushed in a chat with the Michelin Guide in 2019. "You are given a chicken, it is raw and you can't eat it. But 45 minutes later, its skin is golden brown and there is a nice juice at the bottom of the dish, it smells good, the skin is crispy, the meat is tender. You enjoy eating the dish." 

Of course, the magic of cooking requires some technical skills. According to Savoy, "the magic of transformation includes cutting, seasoning, cooking and the combination of different products." In fact, Savoy revealed that in his kitchen, the fourchette diapasone (which he describes as a meat fork that "looks like a tuning fork") is "indispensable." But so too is a spoon — for tasting, and therein lies the rub. Over time, Savoy has also come to realize that while technical skills get you over the threshold, it's one's sensibilities as a human that translate into culinary magic.

Savoy feels that cooking is an intimate gesture

While Savoy understands the value of properly mastering technical cooking skills, he also believes that virtually anyone is capable of doing so. "When one has made an effort during training, one would master the technical gestures," Savoy explained to the Michelin Guide in 2019. But not just anyone can transform disparate ingredients into culinary magic. So then, what makes the difference? What is most important is "your own sensitivity, your heart, to bring out all that makes the uniqueness of each chef," he continued.

By way of example, Savoy shared that "when you [give] 10 plates to 10 different cooks, you are going to have 10 different presentations. Each cook would then act according to his sensitivity... that goes beyond technique to make the dish that will give diners feelings, sensations, pleasure, emotions." It's for this reason that Savoy considers cooking to be a form of intimacy. "Cooking is an interference before ingestion," he added. "It's something very strong and very intimate."