JEAN CAZALS shoots with Pascal Aussignac

Black Pigs' image won the first-ever Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year award...DETAILS

Pascal Aussignac

In 2013 Pascal was named 'Restaurant Chef of the Year' at the Craft Guild of Chef Awards. Pascal cooks at 'Club Gascon' his 1 Michelin star restaurant in London everyday and, in addition to his role as Executive Chef, looks after the floral arrangements across all of his other award-winning restaurants situated in London: Cellar Gascon, Comptoir Gascon, Cigalon & Baranis. Pascal Aussignac hails from Toulouse in the South West of France, where foie gras, duck, fine charcuterie, cassoulet, good wines and Armagnac are the order of the day. He trained with French master Chefs like Gerard Vie, Alain Dutournier and Guy Savoy. His love of food and attention to detail has been delighting foodies & critics in London since 1998.

FEATURED BOOK: 'CUISINIER GASCON' - South Western French Food Revisited. Photography by Jean Cazals

“We have the same vision. When we work, it's like we are brothers!" When photographer Jean Cazals took top chef Pascal Aussignac on a two week road trip through France, it hardly felt like work.

"We hired a car and drove from place to place meeting producers - of course, Pascal knew most of them. We were constantly invited to eat foie gras, duck, figs, duck, cheese, duck - it was like a holiday!"

But not quite a holiday, of course. Out of this riotous journey came the most beautiful book, page after page of arresting images that manage to capture the essence of Gascon gastronomy in its most organic form.

When Cazals talks of Aussignac, he brims over with respect, for the quality of the food, the imagination, the creativity and intellectual scope of this truly Renaissance chef. "He's not afraid of pushing boundaries. He loves quirky things - he's always surprising: I like that he puts the fun back into food."

And this was the vision behind the book: styled like reportage to reveal the journey of Aussignac's culinary creations, from source to plate. There is mood, there is atmosphere, there are dramatic landscapes, and always - the unexpected.

In one double page spread, under a foreboding sky, a herd of Perigord pigs loom towards the camera. In another shot, a white horse fleetingly appears in the midst of a silent forest: "I felt as if I had seen a unicorn", remembers Cazals: it is a magical moment.

There was a freedom, on this road trip, of simply seeing what was there and making things happen; of turning the conventional on its head. A dish of bacon and egg? "I thought, let's shoot the egg on a slab of bacon!" The surface of a sponge, which Cazals spotted in a shop in France, looks almost lunar in close-up, but through his lens, matches perfectly with a shard of nougat. A bronzed, perfectly confited duck is surrounded by a halo of feathers: a cascade of beans flies out from behind a cassoulet.

There are just two portraits of Aussignac himself: very classic, concentrated, focused. "He is not one of those chefs who shouts in the kitchen, he is respected by all his staff. He is nice, very fair - he doesn't think he is better or higher than anyone else".

Photographer and chef; Cazals and Aussignac clearly share more than their nationality. There is the passion for art and the flair for design, the talent for turning the everyday into something extraordinary. Together, they have brought the peasant food of south west France to the level of haute cuisine: simple, graphic, bold - and always unforgettable.

Written by Felicity Spector

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