Mauritius-born Chef Yannick Fayolle is an ambitious, young and undiscovered culinary talent – until now. At the age of 27, he’s had a successful restaurant in his island country before moving to Charlottesville, Virginia, where he has been working as the Executive Chef at Clifton Inn, a high-end hotel and restaurant, for a little less than a year. He says about living in the historic colonial town, “I love it here. It’s a different level of produce, which is very high in quality. There are these great historical buildings, and interesting stuff about the United States.”
The Switzerland-trained chef calls his style of cooking French and Asian with touches of African (“Because I don’t believe in one style of cooking”), and it’s all related to growing up in the island nation of Mauritius. Colonized by the French and Dutch in the 15th and 16th centuries, with India and Asia’s trade route along the African coasts, Mauritius is a melting pot of international flavors. Fayolle brings to the Clifton Inn not only intense cookery skill, but also this worldly abundance and familiarity with spices and herbs rarely seen in the States, and directly related to his birthplace. For example, on a recent tasting menu with a seasonal vegetable salad, he added black cocoa soil – a sophisticated European trend creating ingredients to look like “soil” or “dirt” – imitation edible dirt as a stage for sprouts. The cocoa is a nod to Africa’s east coast and its fertile ground, while the the simulated “soil” displays European training. It’s these unique touches that showcase Fayolle as an epicurean talent on the horizon. Most of our chefs are still playing with barbeque sauces and figuring out uses for white pepper.
Mr. Fayolle is a bit of an anomaly in the world of cuisine. He’s not a big drinker, and in his spare time, he’s a competitive bodybuilder. While the rest of us are engaging in some of his tasty dishes, he’s pounding out reps and getting ready for the next contest by fortifying himself with protein shakes. Regardless of his outside aspirations, it’s his capacity for cooking that will win over new fans.
In many ways, Mr. Fayolle may represent the new breed of chef – Instagram-ready, conscientious about his own looks and physique, while implementing higher standards of cooking with lower fat and calories. Either way, Clifton Inn and Charlottesville is very lucky to have him.
Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):
What is your favorite food to cook? I come from an island, so seafood is my best food to cook. It reminds me of home, and products from the sea are always healthy and tasty.
What do you always have in your fridge at home? Pre-prepped meals; I am a bodybuilding physique competitor and cook pre-portioned meals twice a week, so I have stacks of deli containers in my fridge.
What do you cook at home? My pre-portioned meals and I always make myself different kinds of smoothies.
What marked characteristic do you love in customers? The smile on their faces when they leave the restaurant.
Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Rubbermaid.
Beer, wine or cocktail? I don’t drink much but love to find new beers and wines to match my food.
Your favorite cookbook author? Thierry Marx “BON!”
Your favorite kitchen tool? The Pacojet.
Your favorite ingredient? Dedication and …. Garlic.
Your least favorite ingredient? Grapefruit.
Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Shuck oysters.
Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Asian, French, Southern – finding ways to meld them together.
Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Pork.
Favorite vegetable? White asparagus. It is a very delicate vegetable.
Chef you most admire? Gordon Ramsey. He’s done it all!!!
Food you like the most to eat? Sushi and curries.
Food you dislike the most? Anything bland.
How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? Three. One on my forearm is Thai. It’s a saying on philosophy of art and perfection. Food is art.
Recipe: Yannick Fayolle’s Curry Sauce
- 10 hydroponic tomatoes
- 1/2 butternut squash, peeled and diced
- 4 garlic cloves
- 20g ginger
- 3 medium red onions
- 5g cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 5g chopped fresh thyme
- 2g clove powder
- 10 coriander seeds
- 4 Tblsp curry powder
- 1 Tblsp turmeric powder
- 100g unsalted butter
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- Chopped fresh cilantro to garnish
- Salt to season
Blanch the tomatoes and turn into a concasse. Dice red onions and start searing at medium heat until translucent. Add chopped garlic and ginger with the coriander, the cinnamon and the star anise. Sear for 3 mins still at medium heat.
Add the butternut squash and sweat another 2 mins. Add diced tomatoes. Leave to caramelize. Then add the clove, the curry powder, and the turmeric. Add the butter. Leave on medium heat for 5 mins until the natural water from the tomatoes evaporates by half the volume.
Add vegetable or chicken stock and leave on low heat for an hour.
Blend and strain through a fine strainer.
The end. Go eat.