A View from a Parisian Apartment

Across the Channel, where they are slightly ahead of us in their domestic isolation, @cyril_lignac has moved on a pace (we shared his cookies ‘back in the day’ of ‘just a couple of weeks ago’, when we were all pretty new to this, and when Cyril was still livestreaming bits of his ceiling as he put down his phone to put together cookie dough).

Cyril is now fully supported by a fully professional TV crew. At the beginning of each isolation week the TV chain posts a menu for the week ahead – featuring lists of ingredients, equipment etc. Every weekday at 6.45pm (Paris time) Cyril cooks live with and for the nation (millions of French people are watching and cooking-a-long at home with this their ‘chef préféré’ of longstanding – Cyril is a Rockstar in his own nation!), and by the end of each programme much of La Belle France sits down to eat the same meal as each other that they have just cooked ‘together’ in their own homes – the concept is pretty mind-blowing – never has community cooking looked, or perhaps more importantly felt, quite like this!

To put Cyril in context, for those who don’t know him, he plays the Paul Hollywood role in the French Bake Off tent, only he’s got a bit more ‘edge’, shall we say, and he runs a slew of successful Paris restaurants, bistros and patisseries, has a Michelin star – he also, we find it very easy to believe, dates film stars.

On the same screen (but in their own kitchens) as the programme goes live are: a well-known TV presenter (a kind of ‘Philip Schofield’/elder statesman type); a (different each night) celebrity guest, and three ordinary  families chosen from all corners of ‘L’Hexagone’ (as France affectionately refers to the shape of its own geography). Cyril checks out what they’re doing, chats, laughs, sometimes dances with them as he takes them through their culinary steps and, as if all that wasn’t enough, he is also live on IG at the same time, responding to messages coming in from the rest of the nation; it is a totally winning formula – oh, and I nearly forgot to mention, it helps raise funds to support healthcare workers on the ground too – he is another hero among them.

But why we are here, is to share what we are noticing about the kitchens (and, on these, the least said about the red high gloss affair attached to one of the celebrity guests on the first night I tuned in, probably the better).

Cyril’s own kitchen has some interesting features. He has opted for an (induction) hob that faces a wall – probably all well and good on an average week night, when the wide-ranging mirror behind it enables him to look whoever else might be in his kitchen in the eye; but for the purposes of ‘facing out’ to his audience right now, and while that mirror is mostly covered (it would otherwise reflect all the TV paraphernalia/crew), he is cooking on a mobile two ‘burner’ induction unit facing into the room – which is not a bad place for a hob to be facing if you don’t want to spend your time at it with your back to everyone else.

Cyril’s worktop is a thing to marvel at – it looks as if it’s made from melted, marbled chocolate – it’s the kind of stone that might well be favoured by a chocolatier (which of course is one of the many strings to Cyril’s bow), and it looks great every day on his IG Stories with his carefully weighed, measured and styled ingredients prepped and on display for that night’s dinner.

As for his oven, (we already mentioned it was a Miele, remember?), but now we have noticed that Cyril is one of those who have also opted for a Miele coffee machine to sit above it. As the proud ‘foster parent’ to one of these in our Wimbledon showroom, I will admit to initially having my doubts about whether I could ever love it as much as one of my cafetières at home. But I have come to realise it just craves the routine that my raggle-taggle bunch of coffee pots have never thought to demand of me (full confession, I often leave them on the side and someone else feels the need to empty/clean them before I get round to it). The machine just likes to have a wash before it goes to bed (nothing too onerous, just a rinse around its tank and trays, and the opportunity to hang out with the rest of the dishes in the drainer), and then in the morning it likes to have some basic needs tended to – fresh water in its tank, its beans counted (are there enough for the day?) and just to check in that it’s not going to need any ‘special treatments’ (the milk pipes, or descaling …) – now that we have our routine in place, we are best friends; it is polite, easy to read, and almost always available for a really good cup of coffee.

But back to Cyril’s kitchen. His oven, coffee machine, fridge and freezer, I took a double take to figure, pretty much hang out in his pantry – which is a pretty novel idea – but in a Parisian apartment, with long windows to a balcony on one side, only one wall to put a run of units against, and a generous island anchoring the middle ground, it also seems like it might just be a stroke of genius.

Cyril, you may well not be reading (/this may well not translate!), but I feel I am getting to know you (and even I can recognise an accent from somewhere in the South); you are kinder than our own Paul Hollywood (Cyril gives contestants advice that can help them – PH, you might like to take note!), and when all this is over, I aim to seek out some of your establishments in Paris – at the very least to taste a cookie from the kitchen of my new Parisian chef préféré; one of the many heroes we are all applauding.