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Interviews – La Gourmandista

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Categoría: Interviews

Talent Developer: The Industry-School Link You Always Dreamt About… In Paris

HR recruiters in all industries around the world often complain that school programs don’t always match what the world of work and industries require. For Talent Developer, an agency that is at the service of the professional development of students who want to enter the workplace, speaking with the HR departments is key to the professional success of young graduates in their first professional experience, which in this case , it is often outside of their country of origin.

Estrella Maillet, Founder, and Philippine Freiman, Director of Operations of the firm, are open to have a remote conversation with me from Paris, to explain what Talent Developer is and how they serve the gastronomy and luxury hotel industries, mainly. Between the two, they have more than 35 years of experience in the profession and particularly in accompanying students to liaise the teaching classroom with their first job. They assure that the key to the success of their offer, as well as that of the apprentices who frequently come to request their support to find not only an internship, but the most suitable one to be successful and build a promising future in the demanding world of luxury lies in the kind of accompaniment they provide.

What is Talent Developer?
Talent Developer is the first coaching and employment placement agency for both internships and apprenticeships in all areas of gastronomy, the restaurant industry and the hospitality industry in France, and more specifically in Paris.

Is there any other agency similar to Talent Developer around the World?

There are others who might be considered our competition around world. Nonetheless, they are not specialized agencies in our domain, meaning in helping students gain professional skills. The objective others have is, as far as we can see, more aligned with the student having the experience of working abroad that may or may not be related to their studies.

How is Talent Developer different when compared with the competition?
What sets us apart from the competition is that we place talent where we are sure they will gain the skills they require for the industry in which they want to pursue their career.

It is no secret that gastronomy in France is a reference, but is doing an internship or an apprenticeship useful for foreigners?

Yes. Having professional experience in the gastronomy or hospitality industries in France, given that there is a particular level of excellence well known in the world, allows recent graduates to become quite professional, even when they stay for a short-term. They learn and take what all this savoir-faire to their countries or even to other countries and the industry appreciates it. They recognize the French level of excellence.

¿Qué hace particular el trabajo que Ustedes hacen para que los candidatos sean exitosos en estas primeras experiencias laborales?
Professions around gastronomy are of passion. It is imperative that the young graduates find even more passion to grow into their new profession, develop skills as much as possible and thus manage to live off their passion. Our mission is to find both the right company and the right tutor for each apprentice.

It is terrible when students go back in time and tell us they left the profession because their experiences were bad.

Estrella, how did the idea of creating an agency like Talent Developer come about?

Philippine and I used to work together at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. I was the coordinator of the Bachelor’s program. As a matter of fact, It was I who created the program. Philippine was in charge of finding internships for students and dealing with alumni. The idea, back then, was to visit the tutors to follow up. To our surprise, a tutor showered our student with praise. Now this was not the best in the class, however, it was the most suitable for the company and vice versa. The tutor did not stop flattering his practitioner saying that he was the best he had ever had in his life. Unfortunately, doing this type of placement is not always possible for different reasons for both, the school and the restaurant business environment. However, at that time it became clear to us that making it personalized and with a case-by-case analysis guaranteed success and growth for everyone, especially for the students.

Must students have certain characteristics to get positions as interns or trainees?

No. Our job is to fight against the stereotypes of age, of nationality, of what is linear. We like to work with the open spirits of foreign students and what they bring. Fortunately, both the restaurant and hotel industries today are tremendously versatile and allow us to find places for all styles.

Gastronomy, Sommelier or Wine-Pairing, Hospitality, but what other careers can get internships or apprenticeships through Talent Developer?

It is true that most of our students belong to gastronomy and hospitality careers, but in reality any profession that we find in the sector can. Thus, we find positions for finance, marketing, communications, sales, human resources, and obviously, all profiles of hospitality.

How are the internships offered? Are they paid, short term?

As you know, the law in France states that professional internships will last for a minimum of 2 months and a maximum of 6 for each school year. We abide by this law, regardless of where the student comes from.

Of course, our advice is that internships should ideally last from 4 to 6 months. This is because in order to understand, learn and develop the necessary skills, tutors require time. Of course, sometimes students can’t stay for many months and so we find short 2-month internships for them. However, companies prefer 6-month internships because the law requires they pay interns when the contract exceeds 2 months. Therefore, a 3-month candidate who must receive payment and who they know from the beginning won’t have the time to learn and develop enough for him to evolve and take on responsibilities isn’t as attractive.

Are all the options you offer in downtown Paris?

Most of our network is around Paris. Given that we are downtown, this allows us to visit and be in touch with employees and employers at all times. However, Estrella constantly works to develop agreements both in the region as well as nation-wide so that there are options that include free accommodation for our students as well. It is no secret that Paris is an expensive city and the 600 Euros per month pay is not enough for an apartment in the city.

How much should each student invest to be able to afford the accompanying services of Talent Developer?

It’s very attractive to come to Paris and have professional experience. And that is precisely why we work with our partners so that everyone can come and pay for it, because we know that this is an important investment.

We have packages for foreign students starting at 900 Euros. This package includes a free online interview to present the offer. If the student accepts, they will have our personal accompaniment for 10 hours in-person, including access to someone from the team who is at their disposal at any time by phone whenever they require it. We accompany them before, during and after their experience with different procedures. Also, we set up follow-up and feedback interviews at the end of the internship.

Additionally, we have created packages that provide other services for those who require them. For example, for those who need to improve their level of French, we have an agreement with the Alliance Française with a two-week immersion program in language and culture. Similarly, we have a package for those who need help with finding housing or opening a bank account with our business partners. It is real personal accompaniment for the students in order for them to have a unique and positive experience. We hope, obviously, that anyone who wants it can afford it without forgetting that the budget to currently live in the French capital is around 1500 Euros per month. Again, if this figure is unattainable, we do our best to support students and help them find something that is convenient and doable.

How can students get in touch with You?

It’s very easy. Download our app at and create an account and profile of the person interested in our services. We need contact information and a little about the professional and personal project of the candidate. By email, they will receive an link to request an appointment for an interview. Our agendas are shared on the site, so it is a matter of finding the time slot that suits the student, as well as the language in which they prefer the interview (French, English or Spanish – these are the languages we can offer at the moment). From there, we do the interview and assess whether or not we can help the candidate and their project. We cannot assume that we have something for everyone, but we do seek to have options for everyone.

Talent Developer’s offices are on 36, rue du Mont Thabor, 75001, Paris and their contact email address is

Dark Kitchens: Restaurants with No Dining Room?

It’s no surprise that the COVID19 pandemic has caused everyone everywhere jump through hoops to save our businesses and jobs. It is no secret either that the Restaurant industry, like many others, has had to literally re-invent itself.

I remember that at the beginning of the shelter-in-place, someone invited me to see a roundtable hosted by Mexico’s Cámara Nacional de la Industria Restaurantera (the National Chamber of the Restaurant Industry). Also, I virtually attended talks in both the United States as well as in France, and everyone discussed the same. How could we re-open restaurants making our guests feel safe and that they can rely on us? The truth was that NO ONE had any idea on how or when we would be able to do so. The only thing we knew is that it had to be soon, for thousands, if not millions depended on these jobs.

18 months have elapsed since many os us have either voluntarily, because of fear, or even due to government’s mandate, went into lockdown. I remember having watched a video on social media of a little girl crying nonstop because she didn’t understand why her favorite fast food eateries were closed. And since then, nothing has been the same, at least up to the moment I sit down to write these lines. Nonetheless, we are still hopeful that in some way everything “we’ll go back to normal”. There are some places where we even see people already getting together like we all used to.

Back then, no one knew nowhere knew what would happen in the restaurant sphere. There were governments which gave very important financial backing to save and give support to as many as possible. In other places, it was the community as well as themselves as entrepreneurs, chefs and servers put all their creativity to be able to stay afloat. We already know that the best moments for growth are when facing crises.

And that was when people started to hear about and approach dark kitchens for those times when fatigue, lack of time, or even little cravings allow us all to enjoy something delicious without having to be cooking for hours. But, what are they? Where are they? Is this something new? So many questions, but I’ll try to briefly respond and maybe we will all take a chance and approach one we had no idea was near us.

When and Where did Dark Kitchens Come About?

Well, dark kitchens aren’t new at all. But let us start at the beginning, because a dark kitchen may or may not be a dark restaurant, and one specific dark kitchen may produce for one or several brands and merely be a place where production and provision takes place.

If we go back in history, delivery services began in the 19th Century in Campania, Italy when King Umberto and his wife ordered pizza delivery. Nonetheless, we can be sure that the business model has evolved in a very important way.

Now let us fast forward to 2015 when the term ghost kitchen appeared for the very first time in an article published in New York City and talking about how digital platforms such as Seamless or GrubHub and restaurateurs were offering services using different restaurant names or brands while cooking their dishes in production kitchens instead of restaurants with dining rooms.

Regarding Dark Kitchens and COVID19

Given that restaurants closed in March, 2020 and that fixed costs would not stop, chefs, restaurateurs, and pretty much all entrepreneurs in the industry were asking themselves if they would be able to keep on going with home delivery and curbside pickup. Hence, many of them started using their restaurant kitchens and production kitchens. Their dining rooms became assembly lines of packages handed out to delivery services or even to part of their staff who were delivering themselves, or even UberEats and the above mentioned app participants.

La Cocina del Huiza

Alan Morales is a young chef I met not long ago in one of the many trainings offered online in the middle of this mess. We were both looking to make the most of the pandemic times and carry on learning. We started following each other on social media and I found we had more than one common interest. So, I talked recently with him about his new project: La Cocina del Huiza. Given that Alan had planned to open a restaurant at the beginning of 2020 and COVID19 made him put a halt to the opening until further notice, he decided to be an entrepreneur of a different project; one which was more adequate to the times. He therefore planned a dark kitchen that would operate from the place he hopes in the future becomes the restaurant he’s been promising for his clientele of a year and a half.

But let me give you a little bit of context. Alan is a young cook with Type 1 Diabetes. So, it is no secret that He must be more careful than the rest of us and avoid at all cost catch the dreaded SARS-CoV2 virus. Therefore, he decided that it would be best for him to share through La Cocina del Huiza a local cuisine that is almost farm to table, or in this case, ranch to table. With the chef’s special touch, he shares traditional foods of Mexico promising we won’t have to sell our soul to make ends meet.

It sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it? And if many of the most luxurious restaurants world-wide brag about their farm to table, La Cocina del Huiza is not that far off, for Alan has a very close relationship with producers, farmers, and many of his vendors provisioning to make posole, chiles en nogada and many more seasonal delicacies.

Placing your order is no difficult task either. You must contact him via Insta. His handle is @yosoyares. Follow him and be on the lookout. It is in his TL where he will share menus, dates, and availability. To place your order you’ll just need to DM for availability and confirm you’re within their scope of delivery, which is limited because it is the team behind La Cocina del Huiza in person doing the deliveries to eliminate third parties that most probably will make the food more expensive.

On top of all, be sure that you’ll learn something about the dish you get to taste. Alan puts all of his effort not only to cook great food, but also to share knowledge. Doesn’t it sound appealing already? I think, this one, at least for now, is actually a restaurant without a dining room.

One last recommendation if you ask for delivery from a dark kitchen: Verify they comply with all the licensing and health requirements to operate.

Mauviel 1830 : Consciously Working Since 1830

As a Mexican, when someone talks to me about copper, I immediately think in handcrafts, in pots, in markets. It reminds me of that small mining town in the state of Michoacán which is famous for the Purépecha Indigenous Group who very particularly work hammered pieces that they engrave and polish by hand. However, truly and sincerely, I had never stopped to think about luxury cookware in such a metal before I visited the Loire Valley a few summers ago and witnessed an exhibit with numerous marmites, pots, and pans made of copper and with their manufacturing date engraved. Needless to say, they were all at least 100 years old and in perfect conditions to begin cooking a soup or a jam on the spot.

They didn’t have a brand, however, the style was very particular. Reading here and there, and with the help of my professors in culinary school, as well as visiting specialty stores around the Les Halles quarter in Paris, I learned that many of these pots and pans came from a place very similar to the one I knew about in Michoacán, but, this one was located very near the Mont Saint Michel Abbey in the Lower Normandy region in France. Thus, I arrived to Mauviel 1830. Now, I learn that the main difference among both sites is that here the manufacturing began back in the Crusades. Back then, artisans learned how to provide warriors with utensils because they needed to. In time, the pieces became purely ornamental, and even though Mauviel 1830 is not the only manufacturer of the regio, they are the most important ones. They currently serve exclusively the culinary arts industry, even though, history may change again in the near future, thanks to the popularity copper has been recently gaining in the decorative arts.

Mauviel 1830 is located in a small town named Villedieu-les-Poêles. It has been a family business for 7 generations, and Ms. Valérie Le Guern Gilbert has been in charge since 2006 when she succeeded her father. Since then, Ms. Le Guern Gilbert makes her best not only to be the head of an international company, but that of an entrepreneurial family. Since the moment one enters Mauviel 1830, one can feel how how homey it is. True, not all of the products on sale now are purely copper, they also work with combinations of inox with different treatments, with ceramic, and even silver for contests such as the Bocuse D’Or which takes place every other year in Lyon.

To summarize my day at Mauviel 1830 is especially difficult. I can certainly say I found a company interested in their industry’s innovation, in doing a good job, in leaving their mark in the community, but more than anything, for their daily activity to be conscious. The company’s retirees frequently come back twice, even three times a week to carry on teaching their apprentices their handcraft professions and pass on the experience acquired throughout their years on the job at the company.

Mauviel 1830 has presence in Asia, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, and America, being Mexico and the United States two of the fortunate countries where one can find the firm’s products which have been described by chefs such as Yannick Alléno, who holds at least 6 Michelin Stars in France, as the best in the world, and you know something, I think it’s impossible to disagree with him.

Valérie  tells me that for some time, Mauviel 1830 has been available at the Williams-Sonoma stores in Mexico as well as in the United States, though in the latter you will find them in other specialty stores such as Sur la Table, since they are interested in their international presence. I think to myself, who knows? Maybe in the future the purépechas from my native Mexico might collaborate hand-in-hand with Mauviel 1830.

Could You Knit your Favorite Foods?

As a child, most of the gifts I received from my beloved grannie were either crocheted or knitted with two needles. Before me, she was the best craftswoman in the world. At an early age, maybe I was five or six years old, I asked her to teach me how to knit with two needles. The result: catastrophic, nothing more, nothing less. She taught me how to mount stitches, and I would unmount them, and she, who did magic with those needles and who would teach everyone, was unable to get her young granddaughter to imitate her gestures. Slippers, shawls, scarves, anything and everything, and this was just with yarn. Evidently, my interest towards developing my crafty abilities was forgotten in a drawer for quite some time, even when I have always loved handmade pieces to keep me warm all through the winter.

But what does this have to do with La Gourmandista? Well, quite a lot, because as you might imagine, a lot of what I read nowadays is about food or in some way related to it, and just a few weeks ago, as I was going through my emails and my social media timeline, I saw something that really attired my attention: crocheted food!

My challenge was to get in touch with the artist and get to know his work; his amazing work. The more I researched and found about his platters and trays, the more I fell in love with his work.

Trevor Smith learned to crochet at an early age. His mother, Jean, taught him when he was still in primary school, and although this is a hobby for him, he can devote up to 40 hours a week during the evenings and through the weekend. An artist in every sense of the word, he has been a curator of various art and cultural collections for more than 30 years of experience he has had in the field, for he holds a degree in Visual Arts and Sculpting.

Away from major cities in the far south of the State of Victoria, in the small town of Portland, in southern Australia, Trevor can crochet anywhere and pretty much anything as long as he has his hook and a ball of wool. He doesn’t even use patterns. He gets inspired; he creates. In the past, he used to crochet wearables and blankets like most people do; however, later on, he started to do tea-cosies; more sculptural pieces, yet equally functional as a sweater or a scarf.

In time, Trevor worked in soft sculptures, patchwork and quilting, and even costumes. Then, after a 25-year hiatus, crochet returned to his life and evolved. Then, he began to work on more artsy pieces, and even an exhibit. In December, 2017 he created an exhibition called ‘Cocktail Hour’ at the Michael Reid Sydney Contemporary Art Gallery where one could see retro food and appliances, household items and ‘housewife’ tea-cosies and even buy them. A real treat!

I am sure that in 2018 we’ll get to see more and more of this great story-teller, for each piece he crochets has a specific story, but is part of a bigger one as well, and hopefully we’ll get to personally meet each other.

All photographs courtesy of the Artist and Michel Reid Sydney.

Sophie Avernin: An Unfiltered Woman

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The daughter of two restaurateurs, Sophie studied hotel management and learnt about wines in one of the best wine terroirs in the World: Bordeaux. She discovered the world of journalism by mere chance, nevertheless, today we can read her columns in various publications of both national and international interest. “To talk about wines and beers, one has to know about them. It is mandatory to make the difference between what is good, and what you like, since it’s not always the same”. Of French origin but raised in Mexico City, Sophie recognizes that if there is something she’s savvy about, it’s good food and wine.

Her first steps into the food and beverage industry date back to her childhood, but she became more seriously invested after several jobs in Paris, England, Switzerland, and even Mexico. She was then given the opportunity to work with wineries such as Romanée Conti or Veuve Clicquot, but chose, together with her father, to market wines herself and pave her own way with the Grandes Vinos de Francia brand.

22 years later we could say she has gone through it all. She remembers the horrid 1995 crisis Mexico went through, when she has said she literally sat in thousands of dollars waiting for the markets to calm down, since many distributors went as far as removing wines that were in foreign currencies from their lists.

Now, she combines activities. Part of her time is spent working on the marketing of wine. She spends some of her time running a hamburger stand in the Mercado Independencia located in downtown Mexico City. She also has her dear red wine Pau Pijoan, which needless to say, besides her participating in its production in Ensenada, Baja California, she also markets as an exclusive label. And last, but definitely not least, her gastronomy columns. She remembers that “some time ago, the only ones who talked about restaurants were the owners of said restaurants. But the ethics become doubtful when one is judge and jury”.

Once upon a time, Sophie would sign her columns under a male pen name, Renzo Miller, who is now history. She has her preferred restaurants, who are pardoned anything, even though, she highlights, there is still a lack of responsibility on the part of many actors in the food and beverage industry. Time passed by quite quickly. Our talk came to end, but Sophie doesn’t leave before advising us to always pay for our food, since “giving an honest opinion when you are invited will always be difficult”.

Trapiche: Argentine Wines that are worth the Price Tag

Selecting a bottle of wine when we get together with friends, or for our children’s graduation dinner party without being an expert, may not always be an easy task. We know, for a fact, that Argentina is a country with very good wines, but which one should we choose before such a varied selection we can find on the shelves?

A few days ago, thanks to a tasting directed by Oscar Rangel Zúñiga, the only Mexican sommelier recognized by the Académie Culinaire de France, I was lucky enough to taste two labels of the Trapiche winery that I found friendly to my palate, as well as to the wallet.

Before anything else, the Trapiche winery, for those readers who do not know it yet, it is the biggest argentine wine export winery. It is located in the lands of Mendoza, at the bottom of the Andes mountain range, and it has modern facilities, and impressive advertising globally. Its offer includes grapes which are both native of the land, as well as archetypal of other regions.

The first glass tasted was a Torrontés. This grave is of Spanish origin, specifically from Galicia, but in Argentina it has become a representative vine. Due to its greenish color coming from the plant’s chlorophyll, we know it is a young wine (2015). In the mouth, we discover it of medium intensity, and citric flavors are those we note more, over the floral ones. Also, we can perceive a vast amount of minerals.

“The most important thing about good harmonisation is to enhance the aromas  and the flavors of both, the food, and the wine”, Rangel highlights. Thus, his recommendations include products from the sea, such as Gallegan-style octopus, Thai cuisine with textures, with little intensity in chili, but spicy flavors. And regarding Mexican cuisine, the sommelier recommends a manchamanteles* with not chili intensity.

The second label presented was a red wine “Insignia de la Familia”, meaning it is a Premium classified wine with grapes selected by only one oenologue. Harvested in 2013, Malbec grapevine, as well as another archetypal vine of the region. This wine is high cape and ruby-colored which reminds us of cherries and confirms it when perceiving the aromas characteristic of red and black ripe fruits, as well as spices at a first approach.

In a second approach, and only by the nose, we can see it has aged in new wood -French oak- and other aromas are perceived, such as toast and burnt, leather, and even vanilla. In the mouth, there is no bitterness. This is a wine that shows good evolution, and aging, since the in both the palate, and the aftertaste does not bother at all. With all the above mentioned, the sommelier invites us to taste a glass of this wine with beef on the grill, a chile en nogada at room temperature, and even with a date and pecan tart.

The prices for both bottles are quite attractive, therefore, they left a very good impression not only thanks to its flavors, but also thanks to how versatile they are to accompany dishes with friends and family, as well as because it is not necessary to leave one’s paycheck at the store.


*The manchamanteles is a feast dish from pre-hispanic times generally prepared with chicken or hen, even porc. Its peculiarity is a sauce with tomato, a mix of chili and spices, as well as fruits, being the most characteristic the pineapple.

Who the #*$@ is Diana Miller?

Making a splash, a very elegant lady came into the room. She was introduced as Diana Miller. But, who in the name of God is this woman?

She is a PR with more than 25 years of professional experience in the field, specifically in the hotel and gastronomy industries. Her opinion is that chefs nowadays are rockstars; that there is no longer the sense and knowledge of cooks, even though great talent has been seen in the kitchen brigades, even when they were led solely by French chefs at the hotels’ finest tables.

Originally from the city of Hermosillo in the Mexican state of Sonora, Diana arrived to Mexico City at the beginning of the 90s to dabble in PR at luxury hotels. “Back then, the gastronomy arena, was not a ‘thing’. It was part of the lifestlyle section; there were no columns dedicated to the culinary arts”, she says referring to the development seen in specialized journalism activity seen in the culinary arena.

As we continue with our conversation, she reminds us that back in the day, the good restaurants were mainly located in hotels such as the Camino Real and the Presidente Chapultepec. Fine-dining restaurants as the Churchill’s were slim to none. The exception to the rule was chef Alejandro Heredia from Hacienda de los Morales, since it was not only located outside of a hotel, but also it was a Mexican cuisine restaurant.

When talking about the current offer, Miller states that one can still find very good restaurants in hotels, however, in her opinion, there are so many options out there, that the offer has been deviated, together with the fact that guests are no longer loyal to certain kitchens, as well as that, generally speaking, people have stopped appreciating good food.

Evidently, as an expert in public relations, we could not say goodbye to Diana without asking her asking her in which way her profession is affected by the amount of socialites and conveners talking about the culinary arts in social media.

“We ought to know how to distinguish who’s who. Social media is a great ally for PRs, but one has to know how to communicate. Anyone can send out a twit, but one has to know how to manage the network. Public Relations is about creating stories and strategies”, states the specialist.