Back to the roots for Léa Etchegoyhen: an architect converted to a self-taught cheffe. She will cooking in Providence kitchen from this week-end, using products of our favorite local producers. She introduces herself and answers our questions.
Where do you come from ? Can I say I’m “basquo.rochelaise”? I only have a Bask name and a Bask temper, but I was born and raised between La Rochelle and the Ile de Ré. But on the maternal and paternal side, I am Basque, more from the land and the mountains, Mauléon, Tardets. The Basque Country for me is my holidays, my cousins, big family tables. So I grew up in the great southwest, by the sea, and in the nature, which are essential to me.
How did you become a cheffe? When I was still in architecture school in Bordeaux, I was cooking as a hobby, despite the rather intense rhythm of the classes. It became a real passion. I started cooking for friends, family, doing this before going to class (and after), reading a lot and trying to learn more. One day, I said to myself “and why not give it a try as a private cheffe? “, So I started. First for a few guests and then for a few more. At the end of my studies, I worked for several months in a small café in Bordeaux where I cook dishes “from the market”, but also a few extras when traveling. I think the trigger was there.
I completed my studies, graduated and worked for a year in a small architecture agency in Bordeaux, where we worked on local projects that respect the environment. At the same time, I continued to practice cooking in private homes and events. As I was very curious, I also got involved in the fermentation of natural sourdough bread, alongside my neighbor baker Laurent L’Hénaff. I like to say “Levain, la vie” (Sourdough is life).
And then like many, I realized that standing in front of a computer wasn’t for me, confinement confirmed that so I decided to go fully into being a cheffe. That makes me get up in the morning. In 2020, I joined the Bistro Bao team, on the island of Groix. And since then, I’ve been travelling all over the South-West, Paris, Marseille to do popups with chef friends, to meet farmers and producers. For the past few months, I have been part of the L’École Comestible collective, which offers workshops to schoolchildren in order to educate them on eating well, to awaken them to nature and to others.
A signature dish? I’m far too young for that, and above all I think cooking is constantly evolving, we take inspiration from the places we go, where we live and where we feed ourselves. I would just say that I particularly like everything that comes from the earth: market gardeners, pickers and producers offer us treasures. Growing up near the sea, I love to cook shellfish and fish. It seems that the pasta with clams and wild fennel that I prepare for my friends in the summer is not so bad!
How did Providence appear on your radar? I discovered Providence 2 years ago I would say. Wandering around the Basque Country quite often and starting to take an interest in cooking, I stumbled upon it by chance on Instagram, during Céline Pham‘s residency. Then I ate there several times with some friends. I found the idea of hosting chefs for residencies is absolutely brilliant. But if one day I had been told that I would be one of those chefs, I would never have believed it.
What is important to you in cooking? What is alive, Nature, and what surrounds me. That’s what inspires me, you have to respect it, observe, learn, adapt, deal with it. That’s what guides me in my cooking. I like to bring people together around a big, cheerful table, with simple things and tell stories. Beyond just cooking, it’s mostly everything behind that interests me. It’s silly to say but cooking makes me come alive.