“Food is essential. Fun is essential. Food and fun go hand in hand.” So says my friend Younes Khazour, an extraordinary French chef.
I first met Younes in 2003 in the picturesque ski village of Chamonix, otherwise known as the gateway to the European cascades. He was dating my Aussie friend Kate, and I was in town visiting them for New Year’s.
Younes was in his early 20s and worked as a private chef for vacationers from around the world.
He enjoyed the rush he got from interpreting and experimenting with the range of global cuisines his guests craved. He followed no rulebook, just his raw instincts. His favorite challenge during that time was a vegetarian Indian menu he created using local ingredients. (For example, he had to substitute red lentils for local green du Puy lentils for a Dhal dish.)
Younes and Kate eventually married and settled in Melbourne, Australia. Younes worked alongside acclaimed and innovative French chefs, pushing the boundaries of food and taking it to new heights. Younes tells me I can pair oysters with kiwi fruit or pork with rhubarb — food pairings I am seriously considering.
After years in the industry, Younes branched out on his own and created Asterisk Kitchen, a family-owned specialty food company that combines French influences to produce gluten-free pastas and biscuits, crackers and meringues. Younes wanted to develop and source a range of products that reflected his appreciation for clean and elegant food.
“Working in a restaurant, I felt tied to one particular genre,” Younes explains. “There was a definite pull after the birth of my daughter to be closer to my two children. I wanted to pass on my love and knowledge for good food, how to grow it or forage it, and what to do with it. I also felt the need to share this curiosity and passion with a larger community of food lovers.”
I desire a greater understanding as to why food brings such fulfillment — and at times, an intense excitement — to Younes’ life. (We once dined together in Geneva, and Younes got into a heated exchange with the Swiss chef over the proper way to make a Caesar salad. It was an entertaining, yet awkward moment).
What I do comprehend is that in Younes’ world, food is to be experienced. Or more succinctly, food is an experience.
Younes values his ingredients. Like a painter with his color palette, he sees each ingredient as uniquely beautiful in sight, smell, texture and taste.
He also appreciates nature.
Younes is an avid home grower, and like his cooking, he experiments with cultivating different fruits, herbs and vegetables for inspiration and fun. (The sheer size of his garlic harvest is utterly impressive. And don’t get him started on his saffron)!
The deep passion Younes has for food always makes me smile and inspires my appetite to experiment. I think it’s time I make a serious attempt to open my mind to the possibilities of where food can take my imagination (and palate). And have, of course, some fun along the way.
Welcome, Younes, to HAND + SEED.