Fanny Bal x
Fanny Bal is a French creative perfumer. Trained under the master perfumer Dominique Ropion and passionate about fragrances since childhood, she developed the perfumes L’Eau d’Issey Pure Nectar and L’Eau d’Issey Pure Pétale de Nectar. Faustine Hug has officiated as a cook since the age of 17. Now a renowned private chef, she studies the world through the prism of food culture. An unexpected encounter between two women who transform and transcend their raw materials for the delight of our senses.
Fanny Bal: What inspires you most in your work – the ingredients, the culture…?
Faustine Hug: I work with what I feel like cooking. With what I would love to eat. Nowadays, I’m feeling deeply inspired by Asian food culture. When I cook, I play with nature. I play with my surroundings. I play with spices a lot and avoid butter, cream and additives at all cost. I use lemongrass, coconut milk, kaffir leaves or ginger to aromatise my creations. When i feel like sweetening things a little I work with fruits such as peers or kumquats, and then, to avoid using raw sugar, i mix those aromas with other natural sweet flavors like honey. My cuisine is, perhaps, almost simple, going directly to the origin of taste.
Fanny Bal: In the world of perfumes, the question of the origins of ingredients is highly important as well. When you work on a fragrance, you usually use essential oils, which come from multiple distillations and fragmentation processes. In the end, you only have the aromatic composition of an ingredient. Nowadays I like to work with blackcurrant buds. It’s a highly difficult scent to work with, very juicy and dazzling, almost animal-like. I also use musky notes within my work to soften things a bit. When you create a perfume, you use a very large range of ingredients. I probably work with 800 raw materials every day. When you cook, what is your creative process?
Faustine Hug: I don’t really work in a conventional manner. Before creating a dish, I draw sketches. I imagine the form and the colour I want to give to my work and then I start cooking from that point. When you know flavours as well as you know fragrances, you know what to expect when you compose with different ingredients. You can allow yourself to be free.
Fanny Bal: For my part, I usually create by finding singular pairings between ingredients. I like to find two scents that usually clash to create a tension inside the perfume. Then I work to create balance in the fragrance with other elements. A perfume is only a success when it is memorable, when people recognise it in the street, for instance. When I create, I always aspire to elaborate a perfume that people will remember for the next 20 years.
Faustine Hug: What is your personal relationship with perfume? Do you have a favourite one, or do you change according to your mood?
Fanny Bal: As a perfumer, I can’t wear perfume on a daily basis. It would pollute my work. But I do like to wear perfume when I can. I usually go for the fragrance I’m working on at the moment. That way I can follow the scent, feel it evolve during the day and note down the comments people make about it. The struggle I have to deal with is that the public is not used to describing a fragrance. People are likely to feel limited by everyday language when asked to describe a perfume. You have to tap into something else.
Faustine Hug: Both of our trades are interlinked with memories. For instance, if you used to cook orange blossom madeleines with your grandmother, tasting orange zest in a dessert can take you back to your childhood memories.
Fanny Bal: The main difficulty resides in the fact that not everyone has the same memories attached to aromas or flavours. The olfactory world is highly personal. A smell can express joy, sadness, anger, pleasure… Perfume is something subjective.
Faustine Hug: Flavours and fragrances will unconsciously send you back to significant moments in your life. For me, when I miss a place and I feel like going back there, I cook to come closer to it. It’s in the very essence of cooking to find the quintessence of our memories in tastes, flavours, or fragrance in your case.
Fanny Bal: Memories are to be taken into consideration in elaborating a perfume, but it’s the idea of dreams that fuels the creative process. We create because we dream of travel, of tenderness, of love. And then you transmit those dreams into your creation.
Faustine Hug: Dreaming is the very quintessence of the creative process. It’s what makes us move forward, what drives us. It is thanks to dreaming that we escape, and that’s what we pass on in our art. Freedom.
Credits photos :
Faustine Hug: header, image 1
Andrew Kolb: image 2 (left)
Michael Avedon: image 2 (right)