Four Seasons Hotel Casablanca
- Anfa Place Boulevard de la Corniche, Ain Diab, 20050 Casablanca, Morocco
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2010
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Executive Sous Chef, Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza
- Four Seasons Resort Mauritius at Anahita; Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza; First Arabian Hotel and Resort Company, Cairo; Hotel Nile Hilton; various restaurants in France
- Brittany, France
- Lycee Hotelier de la Guerche de Bretagne; certificate in chocolate training, Le Nôtre’s School; Alain Ducasse formation centre
- French, English
Three dining hotspots are keeping Thierry Papillier on his toes and in the kitchen at Four Seasons Hotel Casablanca. Mint, the Hotel’s lobby lounge, is highlighting Moroccan cuisine and international light fare. Latitude 33, opening in spring 2016, is a sparkling poolside lounge and the new place to be in the city. And then there is Bleu, a modern French brasserie overlooking the Atlantic, with swirling interior design inspired by the curls of ocean waves and a circular wood-fired barbecue in a unique open elliptical kitchen for grilling sea-to-table selections. “There is no other restaurant in town with a wood-fired barbecue like the one we have in Bleu,” says Papillier, who was appointed Executive Chef in 2015. “It’s a BIG show for the whole team.”
The culinary team Papillier assembled for his first-ever opening as Executive Chef is primarily Moroccan – “the best talent I could find,” he says – with leadership assistance including an Executive Pastry Chef and Executive Sous Chef who are both Four Seasons veterans. Papillier has had good fortune accessing Four Seasons quality product in Morocco – particularly seafood for Bleu. Having grown up around the sea on the coast of Brittany, he really knows seafood, and local suppliers respect his knowledge.
Food and drink have been passions for Papillier since his childhood in the northwest corner of France. At age three, he was scurrying between his mother’s legs baking cookies in the home kitchen. As a student, he focused his studies on cuisine, including, atypically, earning a certificate in chocolate training, before accepting a position at a Relais & Chateaux hotel on the coast of Normandy. It was the first of five one or two Michelin-starred restaurants that employed him over six years in France – all before he turned 25.
In 2007, Papillier accepted his first position abroad at an international hotel address in Cairo. A year later, he joined another Cairo hotel as executive sous chef overseeing two restaurants and a French brasserie and nightspot. That’s where Papillier’s talents were first tasted – and appreciated – by the Food and Beverage Director of Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza, who soon hired the 29-year-old as the youngest Executive Chef in Four Seasons.
Big step? “Oh, yes: nine restaurants, one-hundred-and-twenty cooks, two executive sous chefs. I worked with the sous chefs to change the menu at every restaurant once a month. It was quite an ordeal.”
The Cairo assignment was also quite a launching point for Papillier’s ongoing Four Seasons career. In 2012, at the age of 30, he moved on to lead kitchen operations at Four Seasons Resort Mauritius at Anahita, which counts four restaurants of its own. It was his first address outside of a city and his first resort. “Everyone had always told me I should try my talents at a resort. It was completely different and in some ways more difficult, in a good way, than being at a city hotel.”
Papillier got quite creative enhancing the menus in Mauritius. For instance, he planted an herb farm. “It worked.” He also started a crab farm. “It didn’t work. The sea took them all away,” he recalls with a laugh. “So I tried again and then again until I got tired of putting crabs in there.” Eventually, Papillier transformed the experiment into a coral garden. “So in the end, it turned out good for the crabs and good for the sea.”
Papillier is joined in Morocco by his wife and three children. What might one find the chef doing when he is not at work at Four Seasons Hotel Casablanca? He enjoys various sports and recreation, but to be honest, his mind is pretty much always on food. “Even when I’m not in the kitchen, I’m in the kitchen.”