A duo of co-workers on the front line
They are two, a woman and a man. Alongside Chef Gérard, they are both his shadow and his right arm. They form a tight-knit duo, both dynamic and creative. They are kitchen Second Chefs on the top floor of the Hôtel du Centre. Welcome to the kitchens of the La Pergola restaurant.
Mother of three young children, Laurence Soerip is new-caledonian. Discovering herself a revelation for cooking from her teens, this was not the job she was going to do.
"My parents had dissuaded me from doing so because they were afraid of inadequate hours in family life. So, I chose the path of fashion design and I went to study in France. I specialised in making accessories such as bags and hats. I worked with Geneviève de Fontenay’s stylist before she moved her business to Paris."
But the fortunes of life often doing things perfectly, it was in a fine grocery store that Laurence was recruited, which allowed her to regain an indirect link with the restaurant sector. Then the love of the cooking never leaves her, this determined and passionate woman will quickly integrate the famous restaurant brand Les 3 Brasseurs.
"It was in Metz, I became Chef de partie after a year and I have never been out of it since! Four years later, I came back. Logically, I first introduced myself to Les 3 Brasseurs’ restaurant of the baie des Citrons. Subsequently, I worked for several caterers in Noumea, including Aquavena and Les Frères Gourmands. But I missed the pace of the break and I finally joined the teams of La Pergola..."
Born in England, Grégory Delabarre – A.K.A Greg – already has a long list of destinations in his travel diary when he first landed in New Caledonia in 2009.
"I grew up in Montpellier. When I was 15, I went to visit my father in London, where I had a job as a dishwasher in a gastro Pub. Back in high school, I lived in Melbourne and helped my stepfather with his catering business. When we moved to Montreal three years later, I turned to journalism studies. At the same time, I worked as a kitchen hand in a grill or a pizza Chef."
From a very young age, Greg has evolved in the restaurant world, which he will soon fall in love with for the atmosphere and adrenaline that exist there. From the age of 18, he finally decided to make it his profession and got a job in a high-end Italian restaurant serving 400 guests a day.
Then, a first stopover of a year on the Caillou will lead him to resume his studies in hotel high school, while integrating the 360° restaurant of the Ramada hotel, with Chefs Didier Brou and Ludovic Lehallais, before he returns to Canada.
"I have worked in various establishments, with the dream of one day opening my own restaurant. I was also a Chef at home and, for a year, a Chef in a French bistro in Miami. A rewarding experience that made me realise that I was still a little young for the costume! Six years later, I came back to Noumea to get closer to my family. I stayed for a while at L'Arlequin as Second Chef and now I’m in La Pergola."
Culinary art on the menu
In direct partnership with the Chef of the restaurant, which they support on a daily basis or replace in his absence, the role of Laurence and Greg thus concerns the management of the team, the choice of suppliers and the orders, the control of incoming supplies and stock control, the embellishment of suggestions and proposals of evolution of the menu... besides the cooking, of course!
Despite the rhythm that can be tiring, she explains, Laurence loves to learn and create, she always makes new discoveries and admits to being greedy. According to Greg, if the job requires sacrificing his private life, the difficulty is more for his relatives than for himself. The camaraderie of teamwork and the challenge to succeed together are what he enjoys most.
"I love art too. I often listen to classical music when I create... Cooking awakens all senses, including hearing!"
In turn, Laurence and Greg confided in us with humour:
- If he was a dish on the menu of the restaurant? A lamb mouse: it’s tender and Greg is a kind man.
- If she was one of La Pergola’s desserts? A chocolate mousse. Since she loves sugar, especially chocolate!
- If he was a utensil? A sleeve pocket because he loves pastry.
- If she was an ingredient? Dark chocolate without hesitation, for its strength as well as its sweet and pleasant side...
- If you were not kitchen Second Chefs? He would be a musician or, in any case, in the artistic field. Laurence, I would have seen her teacher: she has a grip and I’m sure she would have held her class well!
- Your highest quality and your main flaw? Its kindness, even if he’s sometimes susceptible. Her courage, she’s a battery, but she blows often!
A sweet and salty combo
Still widespread in the eastern regions of the world, the association of sweet and salty had nevertheless lost its appeal in French cuisine since the time of the Renaissance, until several great Chefs of gastronomy take the initiative to revisit its full potential. The sweet notes in a dish, as well as a dessert made from salty ingredients, are nevertheless a matter of taste. And for good reason.
The success of the mixture of flavours will keep to the right balance, to a meticulous dosage, to a harmonious complementarity... in the manner of what could be called a "recipe of Laurence & Greg"! Absolute trust and beautiful complicity are the secret ingredients of their duo, where both get along and be of the same mind hand in hand.
"Laurence is a real war machine! I think she was very mad at me the day I got the idea of suggestion, the Lebanese tabbouleh. She had to spend hours and hours preparing all the herbs... cleaning, cutting, chopping... We laughed a lot!"
So when is a sweet-salty variant made in Pergola from the traditional tabbouleh? We already imagine a wedding of caramelised chicken, dates and red peppers, or tuna with honey, nectarines and feta...