meeting with Raouf Terras and his “meditative” cuisine

Born in Voisin-le-Bretonneux, Raouf Terras grew up in the Yvelines with his 5 brothers and sisters until he was 23 years old. Of Tunisian origin, his parents decided to settle in France before his birth. Having graduated from biology studies, it was in fact his student job that allowed him to discover the world of catering. Since then, he has continued to learn and share, to travel too. Arrived in Strasbourg last September and accustomed to seasonal work, Raouf multiplies the experiences and appropriates the kitchens here and elsewhere. Meet.

Raouf worked at Le Miro, in the kitchens of the European Parliament, in a Creole restaurant in Reunion 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 catering, his know-how but also his humanism and his sweet dreamy side. The most important thing for 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 related to the kitchen of your childhood?

The best memories I have of my childhood are this aspect of gathering around meals and the cultural diversity that existed in the place where I was born. I had my best friends close to home: the Breton family of Bastien, the Vietnamese family of Cédric and the Indonesian family of Anaïs. 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 that through my various experiences, in particular in roommates. It was like making a little link in time, from my childhood to my twenties, between 23 and 24, maybe a little more. I saw myself reproducing the same gestures as my mother and offering this same joy to my roommates. The idea was really to recreate that, the pleasure I had in sharing with my friends, going to their homes, discovering…

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

Being of Muslim faith, 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 Muslims, so they didn’t consume it, it was a bit like forbidden fruit. We didn’t allow it too why it was forbidden by the way, I saw bacon and things that looked super good and smelled super good. I think that’s it, the moment when I went to the dark side of the force, the discovery of this food, which I cook today and which I appreciate.

For the Bretons it was pancakes and sausage pancakes, for the Vietnamese it was crispy pork. When you’re a kid, you eat it on the sly, and then afterwards… my mother knew it, but it’s okay, it wasn’t seen as something serious in the end with us, this kind of prohibition that we exceeded . We felt that as long as we did good things, it didn’t matter what we ate. The important thing, in fact, was to have an upright heart.

What are the key ingredients in your cooking?

The main ingredients of my cooking are those of the cuisine of my origins: coriander, mainly powder, cumin and parsley. I think those are kind of my three fetishes. Afterwards, there is also the turmeric that I discovered in Reunion which is really good. I’ve also been enjoying making my own garam masala lately. A blend of Indian spices made up of cinnamon, coriander, cardamom, cloves, cumin, mustard seeds… It’s a nice blend, I like to always have it on hand and especially make it myself.

And the mint! Garlic and ginger too… spices from the Middle East and India. They give off a smell that reminds me of my childhood. It goes really well when you make vegetarian keftah. These are vegetable dumplings, which I usually make with shelled buckwheat, in which I will add onions, mushrooms and carrots. I cook them in shelled buckwheat to make 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 when cooking?

While cooking, a certain peace, I think. Moments when, for example, you form a figure eight with your spatula so that the risotto does not stick, there is a somewhat hypnotizing, meditative side… You put your thoughts aside. There’s that moment when you find yourself just focused on what you’re doing and at the same time there’s a part of your mind or your unconscious that’s working either creating things or solving problems. That’s what I like about cooking, this “meditation” aspect.

There are a lot of things to do and I try to plan the day before for the next day, find out how I’m going to organize myself, how I’m going to cook, how I’m going to manage to feed everyone in a given time. It is the pleasure of the task accomplished. When I really manage to organize myself well, carry out my missions and prepare all my recipes in the morning, I think it’s cool.

Who do you prefer to cook with?

I have fond memories of a meal we had with my niece. It might not have been the meal we cooked, but it was the idea that sprouted from a slip she made, and I finally found myself offering her a recipe that we knew and that my mother made … but in the form of burgers. The recipe is what is called in Tunisian a kefteji, generally 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 for quite a while in the house where we were with my sister who didn’t really like cooking.

What would you like to convey with the kitchen?

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 also the story that goes with it, that we think about and that reminds us of a very specific moment. We will thus create a new moment, with another person, a new memory that we engrave again in his memory. I really enjoy transmitting what I know and what I think I have mastered.

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

>> Discover the Stamtish association <

Julia Wencker

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