meeting with Raouf Terras and his “meditative” kitchen

Born in Voisin-le-Bretonneux, Raouf Terras grew up in the Yvelines with his 5 siblings until he was 23 years old. His parents, of Tunisian descent, decided to settle in France before his birth. After graduating in biology, it was his student job that allowed him to discover the world of catering. Since then, he has continued to learn and share, including travelling. Arriving in Strasbourg last September and accustomed to seasonal work, Raouf multiplies the experiences and appropriates the cuisines here and elsewhere. meeting.

Raouf worked at Le Miro, in the kitchens of the European Parliament, in a Creole restaurant in Réunion and then as a chef at the People Hostel. Above all, he is involved in the local association Stamtish so that he can benefit from his experience in the hospitality industry, his know-how but also his humanism and his sweet dreamy side. Most important to him are the great experiences shared around cooking and their ability to redefine society, hopefully better and richer. When he tells us about it, we travel, we dream, we philosophize and above all our mouths are watering.

© Julia Wencker

Do you have a particular memory of the kitchen from your childhood?

The best memories I have of my childhood are this aspect of being together around meals and the cultural diversity that existed in the place where I was born. I had my best friends close to home: Bastien’s Breton family, Cédric’s Vietnamese family and Anaïs’ Indonesian family. We mixed specialties from Brittany, Vietnam and Indonesia and this diversity, both cultural and culinary, is the best of my childhood memories.

Then I tried to reproduce all of that through my different experiences, especially with roommates. It was like stepping back in time, from childhood to my twenties, between 23 and 24, maybe a little more. I saw myself reproducing the same gestures as my mother and offering the same joy to my housemates. The idea was actually to recreate that, the fun I had sharing with my friends, going to their homes, exploring…

Is there a particular dish or cuisine that has already made you travel?

Being Muslim, the most striking memory is my introduction to the pig. That moment when I found out it was damn good. Because the Bretons, the Vietnamese and the Indonesians were also Muslim, so they didn’t consume it, it was a bit like forbidden fruit. We didn’t really understand why it was banned, I saw bacon and things that looked super tasty and smelled super nice. I think that was it, the moment I went to the dark side of the power, the discovery of this food that I cook today and that I appreciate.

For the Bretons it was pancakes and sausage pancakes, for the Vietnamese it was crispy pork. You eat it secretly as a child, and then… my mother knew, but it doesn’t matter, we didn’t see it as something serious in the end, this kind of ban that we’ve broken. We felt that as long as we did good things, it didn’t matter what we ate. In fact, the most important thing was to have a sincere heart.

What are the most important ingredients in your kitchen?

The main ingredients of my cooking are those of the kitchen of my origin: coriander, mainly powder, cumin and parsley. I think those are kind of my three fetishes. Then there is also the turmeric that I discovered in Reunion and it is really good. I also enjoy making my own garam masala lately. A blend of Indian spices consisting of cinnamon, coriander, cardamom, cloves, cumin, mustard seeds… It’s a delicious mixture, I like to have it always at hand and especially make it myself.

And the coin! Garlic and ginger too… Middle Eastern and Indian spices. They give off a scent that reminds me of my childhood. It goes very well when you make vegetarian keftah. These are vegetable dumplings, which I usually make with hulled buckwheat, in which I will add onions, mushrooms and carrots. I cook them in husked buckwheat to a kind of paste, I add my vegetables chopped into very small pieces, then the parsley-coriander-cumin triptych, with a little cinnamon too.

Have you ever felt special emotions while cooking?

A certain amount of rest during cooking, I think. For example, moments when you form a figure eight with your spatula so that the risotto does not stick, there is a somewhat hypnotic, meditative side… You put your thoughts aside. There is that moment when you find yourself just focused on what you are doing and at the same time there is a part of your mind or subconscious that is at work creating things or solving problems. That’s what I love about cooking, this aspect of “meditation”.

There are many things to do and I try to plan the day before for the next day, to know how I will organize myself, how I will cook, how I will manage to feed all the people in a certain time. It is the pleasure of the completed task. If I can really organize myself well, complete my missions and prepare all my recipes in the morning, I think that’s cool.

Who do you prefer to cook with?

I have fond memories of a meal we had with my niece. It may not have been the meal we were cooking, but it was the idea that came out of a slip she made, and eventually I found myself offering a recipe we knew that my mom made… but in the form of burgers. The recipe is what is called a kefteji in Tunisian, usually these are vegetables – zucchini, carrots, potatoes – cut into sticks and fried.

It’s true that my niece is a little curious about cooking, so I was happy to offer her this. Especially since she lived in the house where we were for a long time with my sister who didn’t like to cook.

What do you want to convey with cooking?

My experience. It is always a life experience. It’s a bit like sharing a part of your life, offering it through a dish and sometimes the story that goes with it, that we think about and that reminds us of a very specific moment. In this way we create a new moment, with another, a new memory that we engrave in his memory again. I really enjoy conveying what I know and what I think I control.

Pokaa and the Stamtish Association have joined forces to share with you our common love for food and people involved in the restaurant industry. In this series of portraits entitled Humans of food, we invite you to discover these faces committed to Strasbourg through interviews focused on sharing and good food. Because if there’s one thing in this world that brings us all together with our differences, it’s a good meal. And here we have long understood.

Discover the Stamtish Association

Julia Wencker

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