Five minutes with… Frédéric Peneau

The Michelin-starred chef and restaurateur at Serge et le Phoque restaurant on the importance of friends, travel and olive oil

Food and Drink 6 Jul 2018

Frédéric Peneau
Frédéric Peneau is head chef at Serge at The Mandrake in London
Steak tartare at Serge

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given in your career and why?

Listen to your heart but be open minded. Don’t limit your ideas by being unaware and failing to adapt to what is happening around you.

Your doubts and apprehensions can lead you to great things, use them to move forward not hold you back.

Who is your role model?

Louis Kahn, the architect – his buildings are a work of art and when you see them in real life the experience is very intense. The way he uses materials, light and space is very inspiring and other-worldly.

Iñaki Aizpitarte – he was my business partner for eight years and is extremely creative and never stops, he puts pressure on himself to always do better.

What ingredient can you not live without?

There are two, I can’t just say one – olive oil and butter. Olive oil from my Spanish heritage and butter from my French side.

Which item, apart from your passport, can you not travel without?

I love to travel with nothing. Nudist beaches are ideal.

Where is your favourite place to eat in London?

St John – I love its identity and how British it is.

I also recently had a great meal at Nuno Mendes’s place Mãos.

What do you like to do on a day off?

Spend time with my family. I have two sons, one of whom the restaurant is named after (Serge).

Apart from food, what are your biggest passions?

Art, architecture and travel.

If you could choose anyone from today or history, who would be your ideal dinner party guest and why?

I wouldn’t want to invite anyone famous. I would simply like to invite some of my closest friends – Robert, Phillippe, Asa, Adrian, Thibault, Rowan, Nicolas, Carine, Gaetan, Patrick, Charles, Anna, Joaquin, Pierre…

PENEAU has worked at Café Burq in Montmartre, Le Chateaubriand in Paris, Serge et Le Phoque in Hong Kong, which gained a Michelin star in its year of opening and is now based at Serge at The Mandrake in London, where the menu taps into Peneau’s Spanish and French heritage;