Douglas Blyde talks to dandy and gourmet, Nicolas Kenedi, the official adviser to Martell on its ‘Pure Gourmet' food matching philosophy...
What is ‘Pure Gourmet'?
Pure Gourmet is inspired by Martell's pure method of the creation of its Cognacs. Martell carefully selects specific cru, has a strict double distillation method and aging process, and uses only vins clairs and grains fins: this gastronomic signature mirrors Martell's selective approach. Pure Gourmet is ingredient-led cuisine. Three pure ingredients are chosen from renowned terroirs worldwide and are then prepared in a skillful and unpretentious manner. These ingredient pairings and recipes accompany Martell products and elevate every facet of them, so that consumers will have a new, heightened enjoyment of Martell and a unique gastronomic moment.
How did you become so interested in gastronomy?
You are what you eat... I had two mentors: my father, an excellent food and wine lover, and my grandfather, who was a unique dandy. I have incorporated these two directions into my life, ultimately food being one of the defining factors of my everyday priorities. I'm now the lucky father of Gaspard (6) and Arthur (3). When they were born, I realised one of the first senses ignited was taste, so from their first day, I cooked for them to generate as much appreciation of food as possible. I also think that sublime food is beautiful and I encourage them to appreciate the beauty of what they taste. My food motto is "when it is beautiful cold, it is delicious hot..."
What is good food?
A simple pleasure that creates a memory.
What challenges have you faced crafting Pure Gourmet?
It is all about getting access to the most extraordinary products. Pure Gourmet sets its tone through a selection of gastronomic wonders from the Charentes region in France; some of them, such as the Jonchée cheese have a very short shelf life making the recipe almost unable to be recreated anywhere other than at Martell's 19th century Chanteloup Castle.
Are you a gourmet or gourmand?
Intellectually and emotionally I am a big fan of the perfect bite; one spoon with everything perfectly proportioned to generate a memorable frisson. For this reason I'm definitely a Gourmet....
What's the most curious meal you've witnessed?
I have the great pleasure of being part of a discreet and flamboyant gastronomical academy ‘The Offal Academy'. My first meal was composed entirely of fish offal, ingredients of which I could never have imagined eating before!
What ingredients resolutely won't work with Martell?
The best matches are those that are surprising and unexpected: high end gastronomy is a world of freedom - and should remain so. Something too predictable is the only thing we believe will not emphasize the vision of perfection and the pioneer spirit of Martell.
How do you adapt dishes to cope with 40% strength alcohol?
It is all about mindset. You just need to be open minded and ready for real intense pleasure. The fact Martell is made with vins clair that are distilled, and that they use Borderies, creates a subtle and powerful base that harmonizes with Pure Gourmet gastronomy. You drink less with more intense emotions....
What is your favourite smell?
My skin. Changing with the time of the day and location, it reflects my mood and the outside environment I need to deal with. For something more linked with food, I have a real love of Bergamot (with its deep, full citruses scents - so unexpected, hard to define, sensual and fresh all at the same time).
Who makes your shoes?
I have an intensive and rainbow-coloured collection of Pierre Corthay footwear and Matthew Cookson slippers that reflects the eccentricity and perfection that drive my life.
For everyday consumption, what style of alcoholic beverage do people drink most of?
I don't live in an everyday world(sic). In the last few years I have experienced amazing taste discoveries, mixing food and teas which can be a fantastic alternative to alcoholic beverages. Some rare teas can generate the same depth and intensities as you get with admirable grands crus of our great Martell.
What are your ambitions for Pure Gourmet?
Excellence by purity is a major issue in our global gastronomical world. The mission of such a platform is also to protect and stimulate the small producers of the most exquisite products of the world... If we do not promote them they will disappear and will be lost forever. Pure Gourmet is a symbol of perfection and a commitment to make it future-proof...