CAREER QUICK FIRE: Emily Chia, Head Chef of Le Grand Bain in Paris
Emily is the Head Chef of Le Grand Bain
in Paris, a truly stunning restaurant set up by Ed Delling-Williams in the trendy Belville (11th Arr.), and one of the darlings of the Neo-bistro movement which counted Bones (now Jones) and Au Passage among its founding friends. Emily was born and raised in Canada and has worked around the world; she offers an amazing perspective for anyone wanting to experience cheffing in a foreign country, for a little or a long time.
“Paris has been such a whirlwind. I refuse to succumb to #therealemilyinparis but I do often wonder why I’ve wound up here. Having all that time away from the restaurant gave me time to network and start projects of my own, so this year has been tiring but fun!”
Where did you start your career?
I never wanted to cook for a living . I started cooking at 26, so later than most . I thought it would ruin my love of food and it would be such a tough industry to work in . It is a tough industry, for sure, but I didn’t realise exactly how rewarding it would be until I moved to London . I worked in a few restaurants before St. JOHN, learning how to work in a team, how to work fast, but it wasn’t until I stepped foot at St. JOHN that I learned I could choose cooking as a career . I started at St. JOHN as the office intern and left as senior sous chef, but that’s a story for another day…!
What do you love most about working in Paris?
The ingredients ! The French really pride themselves on producing quality ingredients and supporting the industries which produce them . It is not uncommon to find yourself popping to your local cheese shop, then an open air market for vegetables, then to your favourite bakery which uses only French flour and butter for their croissants . It’s a cliche and seems time inefficient to city living but once you go French butter it’s very hard to go back.
What’s the best thing about working at Le Grand Bain?
The ever changing menu means we never get bored and we’re always learning new things ! I absolutely love that a concept for a dish I think of in the morning can make it on the menu that evening. Because the menu changes all the time, we’re able to create less waste and build a more sustainable kitchen.
What advice would you give to anyone considering taking a job abroad?
I highly recommend any cook to take their skills to another country at least once in their lives . So far in my career I’ve been lucky enough to cook in 7 different cities over 5 countries and I can’t think of many career paths that would’ve allowed me to experience that . Organising all the admin for your move can be tedious but the payoff is worth it . Learning firsthand about ingredients in a different place in the world and different cooking techniques can’t be compared to reading it in a cookbook .
Tell us about your three favourite dishes!
My own or in the world ?! Such a difficult question to answer! Let’s go with in the world (in no ranking order). My grandmother’s fresh lumpia; it takes her three days to make and is a dish that for me reflects the Chinese diaspora in the Philippines and my childhood . Congee anywhere and any time of day, preferably with yàuhjagwái 油炸鬼 (literally translates as fried-oil-devil) and XO sauce . St. JOHN pig’s head and potato pie: it is such a beautiful thing ! I’ll never forget the time I made a pig’s head and potato pie for Fergus and Anthony Bourdain .
What are your three favourite spots in Paris?
Le Baratin for the veal brains and sweetbreads. f.o.l.d.e.r.o.l. for their ever-changing, seasonal menu of ICE CREAM . Sur Mer because seafood is everything and Olive Davoux is such a talent !