Chef, entrepreneur, artist of molecular cuisine but also president of the UMIH, Thierry Marx opens the doors of his Parisian studio to Hedwige Chevrillon.
It is a small confidential workshop, hidden in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. Open every day of the week, Thierry Marx and his collaborators come here to work, write, create, experiment. “We placed all our memories, all our desires there”, sums up the starred chef.
There are two large samurai armours, a collection of sabers that he restored himself and a series of works by the visual artist Mathilde de l’Ecotais, his partner. These are works printed on metal or stretched canvas, made with the reflection of the sun. Everything in this workshop is zen, like its chef.
“I need serenity, silence, solitude” he reveals.
He is a Shinto Buddhist, and spirituality is a big part of his life. “To become a leader and a business leader, you have to keep your verticality, be able to move forward and not copy what is around”. However, as a child, Thierry was a far cry from today’s Zen chef: “I broke into the business by breaking and entering,” he says.
From pastry cook to cook, passing through the army
It all started with judo. The practice of this Japanese martial art gives it an “educational framework”. When he left school, he crossed paths with a baker and joined Les Compagnons du Devoir, a movement that trains young people in traditional trades based on apprenticeship. He obtained his pastry CAP in 1978. On returning from his military service he decided to pass his patent, then his baccalaureate. His revenge on his younger years. Finally, he cut his teeth in various large kitchens: Ledoyen, Taillevent then Rebuchon…
His talent was spotted, he was entrusted with the kitchens of major hotels abroad, history was on the move. But what crystallizes his current identity lies in his meeting with Raphaël Haumont, a chemical researcher, at Paris-Saclay. It was between 2004 and 2006 that they developed their passion for molecular cuisine together.
“I went for a crank, even an impostor” he recalls.
In his kitchens, “it’s calm”, he says. This is also the way his collaborators and employees describe him during the “colleague survey”. Once a year, colleagues describe their working atmosphere anonymously. “We have a very inclusive management, he explains, I am tough with the facts and benevolent with people”. Its social commitment does not stop at the borders of its kitchens… For some time now, it has radiated throughout the sector.
In October, Thierry Marx was indeed elected, with more than 70% of the votes, president of the UMIH, the union of trades and industries of the hotel industry. “I disturbed circles when I arrived,” he says. In this mandate, he will face three major projects. First, the external and internal communication of the organization. Then, the attractiveness of the sector. A big chunk when you know that there are currently 200,000 vacancies in the hotel and catering industry. And finally, what seems to be most important to him: the social impact of “our professions”.
“It’s one of my fights”
During his campaign he undertook to offer mutual health insurance “worthy of the name” to the sector, “it’s one of my fights”, he proudly declares. Reflecting on and reducing the environmental impact of the profession is also part of its projects within the union. But his commitment does not stop there: since his inauguration, he has called for the simplification of legalization procedures for foreign workers. “One day they are legal, the next they are no longer, yet they have been there for years,” he says. The sector currently employs 19% foreign workers.
Chef, precursor of molecular cuisine, fourth dan in judo, president of the UMIH, Thierry Marx wears multiple hats and skilfully juggles between each one. The man who says he is “viscerally attached to Paris”, his city of birth, now has only one dream: to win a third star thanks to molecular cuisine.