Michelin-starred chef Nicolas Masse talks about his vision of gastronomy at Les Sources de Caudalie

21 March 2024
LesSourcesDeCaudalie_ ©ClaudiaDevillaz(my_tasty_travels)_2021 (69)

Since 2009, Chef Nicolas Masse has been channeling his passion and expertise into delighting guests fortunate enough to experience his cuisine at Les Sources de Caudalie. Within this luxurious hotel nestled in the heart of the Bordeaux vineyards, he presents a gastronomic fare that ranges from rustic to convivial across the estate’s various restaurants. Nicolas Masse, a chef who places nature and terroir at the forefront of his culinary approach and creations.


What do you enjoy most about your role as a chef at Les Sources de Caudalie?

What I find most gratifying is the opportunity to collaborate with a motivated and passionate team, set against the backdrop of breathtaking natural beauty. This environment allows us to work with local products and to showcase the authenticity of these ingredients on our plates. Our region boasts an exceptionally rich and diverse terroir, enabling us to continuously innovate. The essence of this place is reflected in every dish we create, celebrating nature through elegant simplicity.


What are your main culinary influences and how do you incorporate them into your cooking?

Our cuisine strongly focuses on the product, highlighting the essentials to offer our clients a gastronomic journey from the ocean to the vine. My experiences in the Basque Country and my keen interest in plant-based cuisine influence my cooking. Additionally, my childhood in Normandy, steeped in buttery cuisine, along with my travels, have deeply shaped my culinary approach. I am particularly influenced by Japanese gastronomy, known for its "mono-product" approach that delicately enhances each ingredient.


How do you balance culinary tradition with innovation and creativity in your kitchen?
Cuisine is an art that is constantly evolving. Today, we witness the emergence of new codes, characterized by a genuine search for taste authenticity, moving away from superfluous consumption. While my cooking has significantly evolved over the years, I always strive to modernize traditional recipes with respect for the product. Our cuisine is inspired by our surroundings, our vineyards. We aim to infuse meaning into every recipe we present, as it is crucial for me to align with my values and respect for the environment.


What is your process for creating new recipes?
I let raw products guide my creations. Inspired by the seasons and the harvests from our gardens, I determine the rhythm and content of our dishes. I aim to merge the incredible worlds of our biodynamically cultivated vines and our permaculture garden. The process of creating my dishes is akin to that of an oenologist who blends different vineyard plots and grape varieties to craft a fine wine. Similarly, I blend flavors, textures, and tastes to create exceptional dishes.


How do you collaborate with local producers?

We maintain a close partnership with the best local producers, based on transparency and trust, essential values in my view. We share a common passion and a profound respect for nature. From spring to mid-October, we use products from our permaculture garden, managed and maintained by Rachel from the Conservatoire du Goût association. In winter, we turn to Jardins en Serre. Since my arrival at Les Sources de Caudalie, we have had the privilege of collaborating with nearly 50 local artisans.


In your opinion, what is the most emblematic dish you have created at Les Sources de Caudalie?

I might mention the "Rouget vendangeur" cooked naturally with lacquered eggplant. It’s a dish of great finesse, skillfully pairing quality products with flavorful sauces, including eggplant jus, to deliver a concentration of flavors. I have evolved this dish over the years, adapting the accompaniments according to the seasons.


How do you decide on the presentation of your dishes, and how does this enhance your guests' culinary experience?

I believe simplicity is key to highlighting the product on the plate. This approach, in my opinion, is the best way to elevate our creations. In our setting, the cuisine serves to complement the vineyard.


As a Michelin-starred chef, how do you handle the pressure and expectations of your guests?

I view pressure as a positive force that compels us to excel. It encourages us to constantly innovate and raise the standard of our dishes. It's not just about following trends, but rather about seeking the best products and cooking them in our unique way. We also have a responsibility to our clients to offer healthy and balanced cuisine.


What are the challenges you face as a Michelin-starred chef, and how do you overcome them?

The major challenge is to continually innovate in a world that is perpetually changing and increasingly connected.


What are your future projects at Les Sources de Caudalie?

Cuisine is part of our French heritage, and I take great pleasure in contributing to the promotion of our beautiful region and its terroir. I aspire to continue passing on my passion to the younger generation, to pique their interest, and to attract the emerging talents of tomorrow. Achieving a third Michelin star for La Grand’Vigne restaurant would be an exceptional achievement for all of us.