Chef Florian V. Hugo: A Passion for Notre Dame and French Cuisine

“Everything changes. The only thing that remains immovable across the centuries and fixes the character of a people is cooking.” Victor Hugo

The Cathedral de Notre Dame holds a special place of legacy for Chef Florian V. Hugo and for me. Chef Florian is the great great great great great-grandson of the literary maestro Victor Hugo, author of Hunchback of Notre Dame, Les Miserables and many other great works. He is an accomplished French chef who has lived and worked in New York City for two decades. He was mentored by Chef Alain Ducasse and he studied under Chef Paul Bocuse. Chef Florian is author of “Les Contemplations Gourmandes” a biographical cookbook which is an homage to Victor Hugo. Our mutual friend, Rita Jammet, Chief Bubble Officer and a founder of La Caravelle Champagne, introduced Chef Florian and me. Rita knows of my deep connection to Notre Dame.

Notre Dame was the last place my father visited in Paris before he passed away in the Charles de Gaulle Airport. His colleague who was traveling with him said they walked through Notre Dame for an hour, and that my father lit a candle and said a prayer of forgiveness and blessing for someone who had wronged him in a business deal.

During this Kitchen Chat, Chef Florian and I discuss Notre Dame and how this majestic cathedral reflects an important lesson and inspiration to rebuild and restore when we encounter unexpected challenges in life, both from a professional and personal perspective. It is exciting that Notre Dame will be reopening later this year. Michel Picaud, president of Friends of Notre Dame de Paris has worked hard to fundraise across the globe to help restore this important place. If you are interested in helping restore and preserve this place of history, here is a link to donate.

Check out our video chat here:

Chef Florian also discusses the journey of writing “Les Contemplations Gourmandes”as a way to honor Victor Hugo and to get to know his forefather through their mutual love for food. He used letters, writings and menus of dishes that Victor Hugo loved, and Chef Florian created the delicious recipes. What a special delight to see a photo of Victor Hugo’s “potager” kitchen garden in Guernsey where he was exiled after standing up to Napoleon.

Chef Florian featured a handwritten note from Victor Hugo in 1860 that reads, “Aujourd’hui pour la 2 fois de l’annee, nous avons mange de nos asperges,” which roughly translated means: “Today for the second time this year, we ate asparagus from our garden.” Chef Florian recounts how he has read so many books by great people about Victor Hugo and his life; however, he felt that he got to know his ancestor on a personal level through this book. On a personal note, my culinary journey with Kitchen Chat has helped me get to know and understand my father through conversations about food and sitting at the table to share meals with some wonderful people in the industry. It was a true honor to meet and befriend Chef Florian Hugo.Just as Victor Hugo once wrote: “Everything changes. The only thing that remains unmovable across the centuries and fixes the character of people is cooking.” What are some treasured recipes that have been handed down in your family?

Savor the day!

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