AM par Alexandre Mazzia On 'Transversal' Cuisine & Nutritional Recipes For Olympics Paris 2024
Restaurant AM par Alexandre Mazzia is a beautiful twist on the French word ‘ame’, meaning soul, and the chef's initials. For Chef Mazzia, storytelling and expression is the soul of his culinary philosophy.
Growing up in the Republic of Congo, the multi-talented young French boy was influenced by an array of cultures and cuisines from the coast of the Gulf of Lion and part of the Mediterranean Sea. He trained at Ecole Hoteliere Santos Dumont, went on to refine his culinary techniques with multiple apprenticeships and perfected his craft as a private chef at Le Hom’Art in Avignon and later on a permanent position in Marseille at Le Corbusier.
In his years of learning from professional and high-profile restaurant experiences, Chef Mazzia gradually reconnected with his African childhood and French nationality. He found his true passion in the culinary world, sharing his heart and soul through his gourmet cooking. His venture AM par Alexandre Mazzia is the backdrop to his storytelling. Awarded three Micheline stars, his craft is a gastronomic journey of French, Spanish and African culture. Here, Chef Mazzia gives us a little insight into his culinary journey to date – and what the future holds.
1. You have a degree in science, you’re a professional basketball player and now you’re the chef-founder of a three Michelin-starred restaurant. Can you talk us through your journey and how you found your passion for cooking?
My career path is one that can be called atypical. Immediately after my baccalaureate, I was lucky to attend a cooking school where I learned the basics of cooking and general knowledge of the hospitality industry. It gave me a chance to master the practical skills of cooking. After that, I acquired several diplomas and certifications, with a specialisation in pastry, chocolate and candy manufacturing. I got those diplomas while alternating school classes and work. It allowed me to build experience very quickly while discovering a world I felt I belonged to.
My passion for cooking was not immediate. I was first attracted by the solidarity present in the kitchens, which I could relate to as it is very common in team sports. It echoed with me straight away since I played basketball (professionally) in parallel. It allowed lifting some weight off my shoulders at times as I pursued both passions simultaneously. Juggling both allowed me to give the best of myself in both disciplines. Although they require a very different set of skills, they allowed me to grow in versatile ways building up knowledge while having fun.
From that time on, I started accepting myself more. Since I came from abroad and only arrived in France at the age of 15, in the beginning, I used to be very independent. Cooking allowed me to travel a lot and open up. And then my passion became more than a passion. It became the source of my inspiration and motivation from which I learned all my knowledge – practical and theoretical. It helped me learn about general culture, people, and chefs and understand better the different cultures present around the world. Not just on a country level but regionally too. I also got to understand a great deal about “savoir-faire” (know-how) varieties making the base of French cuisine. It allowed me to have a strong knowledge foundation on the matter. As I travelled, I got to discover new flavours and become more aware of the importance of textures in cooking.
2. What’s the inspiration behind AM par Alexandre Mazzia?
AM par Alexandre Mazzia is a glimpse of my soul. It is about discovering myself through my cuisine. There is a wordplay in the name of my restaurant, in all subtlety, is a display of transparency and authenticity. It is a place where I give the best of myself, as I am devoted to its guests.
'It is a place where I give the best of myself, as I am devoted to its guests.'
3. Can you share with us your creative process when creating dishes and menus?
My creative process is something that never ceased to evolve. When I started, I worked in an experimental laboratory with a whole team behind me. It was all very methodical, and we documented everything.
This research that I developed was meant to highlight the reaction of many ingredients while being cooked. We studied their reactions depending on environmental variations, ingredient transformation through heating methods (at 30 or 40 or 50% for example), cooking techniques, assembling them together, analysing the different elements and textures of each ingredient, etc. Eventually seeing what could work together and how to combine them for maximum result.
We would also study the taste differences of a product, paying attention to the change in colour once it went through different cooking stages.
For example, a milkcap (mushroom) would react differently if it is just grilled or if it is grilled and then poached. Or steamed and then slightly burned. This analysis process is very important – it got us to understand the difference between each product very clearly. I’ve always been fascinated by the change in colour of an ingredient during transformation.
These analyses allowed us to better understand the products we used: in terms of texture and consistency. When we received a ripe product or some picked up too early, we’d analyse the difference. And start understanding the importance of the time at which a product is picked, whether it is farmed respectfully and the impact that can have on the dish. There is also a binary system in the thought process where we start knowing intuitively what we want, what we think and where we’d put these ingredients on the plate.
I guess that is when we’d call it art, as we were putting colours where we want them. I stopped doing this a long time ago.
In the beginning, we built recipes that were structured. Now I am just composing as I go, with no constraints. I allow myself to create what I want when I want it, freeing my mind. I have the freedom to change anything at any time.
Today, for example, we changed the Dragon juice. Changing its texture gave us a new alternative way to look at it, giving us the opportunity to work with it differently. This thread gave me new openings to work on it with, like with the scallops, for example. Or for a new dessert with a base using curry, smoked milk and hazelnuts. I put together textures that allow me to go further in my creations.
My creative process is inspired by music, colour and the arts, even sound, reading, and things that surround me. What is important here is the gustatory reaction, the echo of flavours in the mouth as experienced when eating our food, giving sense to the story we tell. Each sequence has its own frequency. As we bridge each dish with another, combining flavours and textures, enabling the continuity of the story.
4. What do you wish to bring to France's culinary scene?
I want to bring my ‘savoir-faire’ and my expertise in composing in harmony with the local produce available. We have such a rich and varied variety of produce here in Marseille and nearby, that I like to compare them to luxury jewellery (Haute Joaillerie). The excellence of the produce I use is reflected in the dishes I make, taking people on ‘culinary journeys’ across the richness of my territory through my cuisine.
I also want to remind people that it is important for each of us to be true to who we are really. Each of us, individually.
'I also want to remind people that it is important for each of us to be true to who we are really. Each of us, individually.'
5. Congratulations on being chosen to cook at the Olympics in Paris in 2024! Can you share with us any details or concepts in the plan?
For me, it is an honour to have been chosen to be a part of the International Olympic Games Committee to develop a good nutritive alternative for the athletes within the Olympic village. As I used to be a professional sportsperson myself, I am proud to participate, in an indirect way, in one of the most important sports events in the world.
It's also about making a difference and supporting the initiative – The Games are in Paris in 2024 following a government initiative to organise it there, bringing forward the French ‘savoir-faire’ (know-how).
For me, the two important points to note here are the following.
Neuro-nutrition - linked to the sport performance and recovery of athletes before and after a performance.
The second is also to give families of athletes an enjoyable place to go and eat - similar to a street food concept, fun, light and full of surprises.
The neuro-nutrition impact of the food we eat and the ingredients we use, can impact sport performance and post-workout recovery, which are both linked. We need to give back to athletes in a culinary way, a sensation, an emotion, the same way they give it to us during their athletic performance.
If we were to offer street food, it would be a healthy option, with good products respecting our surroundings; limiting our carbon imprint and waste in the process. This makes sense for me as I try to do this at the restaurant on a daily basis. Also, here it will be about what we’re trying to achieve on a more scientific and/or sport level.
6. How would you describe the dining experience at AM par Alexandre Mazzia?
My cuisine is ‘transversal’ which makes the experience we offer at the restaurant quite a unique one. There are eight tables for 22 seats. We have 26 people working at the restaurant. Obviously, we are very precise and very committed to the work we do. When entering the restaurant, you can feel a tangible energy – it's very strong but also enjoyable. In Marseille, we are surrounded by true ‘artisan talent’ displaying unique ‘know-how’ techniques (savoir-faire). We try to gather it all at the heart of the restaurant, bringing the best of local produce from fishermen, local farmers, tableware designers, etc.
Some guests give us really positive feedback as they come to the restaurant and feel they have travelled. 99% of the people that leave the restaurant say they’ve never experienced this kind of sensation before. That is what is our strength I think. Our own ‘culinary writing’, as I like to call it, it is what I call my cuisine’s expression. I managed to create an alphabet of taste thanks to my different stories and captions of moments, which I use to transfer information into my dishes.
It's an experience that is also a sentimental one, filled with emotion. The emotion of a past moment, which is now a memory, is transferred into a dish in the present. It is just extraordinary.
'It's an experience that is also a sentimental one, filled with emotion. The emotion of a past moment, which is now a memory, is transferred into a dish in the present. It is just extraordinary.'
All imagery is provided by Lotus International.
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Address: 9 Rue François Rocca, 13008 Marseille, France | Website: alexandre-mazzia.com | Phone: +33 (0)491 248 363 | Email: email@example.com | Instagram: @alexandremazzia | Facebook: @Restaurant AM