Not all of us are fortunate to find our passion at a young age, but for Chef Pascal Oudin, the celebrated owner and chef of the award-winning Pacal's on Ponce, and now its casual-dining little sister, Brassiere Central, the right ingredients came together to lead him to his calling.
Born and raised in Bourbon Lancy, France, Oudin could remember barely seeing over the kitchen counter as he helped his mother whip things together — I guess you could say that was his first "sous chef" position. He was captivated by cooking, whether it was preparing small snacks or large meals for his family. By the time he was 13, he began a professional career in a local restaurant in small town Moulins, residing in Bourbonnais, hailed as France's gourmet capital. From there, the accolades came racking in.
His artistry and drive allowed him to win the prestigious "Best Apprentice Chef Award" in France when he was 17 years old. This honor lead him to work with masters of haute French cuisine, such as the James Beard Award-winning and three-Michelin-starred restaurant owner Alain Ducasse, and he pursued his education with other Michelin-starred visionaries such as Roger Verge and Joseph Rostang, and celebrated pastry chef Gaston Lenotre. When Oudin first moved to the United States in 1982, he was mentored by Jean-Louis Palladin in Washington, D.C.
Two years later, Oudin moved to Miami, where he put on his first executive chef hat at Dominique's Restaurant at the Alexander Hotel — and then put on that same hat at many other highly-ranked restaurants across South Florida. After many years of continued success, he received the "Florida Chef of the Year Award" from the Chefs in America Foundation.
Oudin's list of recognitions is longer than a child's wish list to Santa Claus. From being cited as one of Food & Wine Magazine's "Best New Chefs" and Esquire Magazine's "Best New Chef in Florida," to Pascal's on Ponce being heralded as one of the best new restaurants by multiple publications, including the New York Times, guests lucky enough to be served his dishes don't have to wonder why.
His latest brainchild, Brasserie Central, allows him to pay homage to classic French recipes and methods, all while providing affordable and authentic French fare made from scratch. Get to know more about Pascal Oudin and see what he had to say when we asked him six, quick questions.
The Quick SIx
Foodable: What’s the first meal (that you can recall) that changed your life?
Pascal Oudin: Dinner at Jean-Louis at the Watergate, in Washington, D.C. It had been only a week since I arrived in the United States in 1984. Chef Jean-Louis Palladin invited me and Daniel Abid for lunch to offer some advice about working here in the U.S.
Foodable: One ingredient you could not live without?
PO: Fresh thyme. It’s an herb you can find in a lot of my cooking.
Foodable: Who is your culinary mentor?
PO: Alain Ducasse. He is the one who gave the first push in my career and later provided much direction.
Foodable: Where is your favorite restaurant to eat at when you aren’t working?
PO: Believe it or not, Hillstone in Coral Gables, Miami.
Foodable: What's the most important lesson you learned (good or bad) in your first year of owning a restaurant?
PO: I learned to be consistent from opening to close at all costs, to pay your bills and staff, and never take your business for granted.
Foodable: What’s your guiltiest culinary pleasure?
PO: A chocolate bar with hazelnut and raisin.
Foodable: Who is one person you would love to cook for (that you haven’t already)?
PO: My mentor, Alain Ducasse.
Foodable: Best time management tip?
PO: Anticipate business.
Foodable: Favorite kitchen hack?
PO: Adding a splash of white vinegar when cooking potatoes. It helps keep them firm and from falling apart.