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‘I’ve made the same meal many times, but can never emulate that perfect day’

My most treasured food memory: Michelin star chef John Kelly

John Kelly's most evocative food memory involves a gorgeous view over the Mediterranean and the company of his family.

My most evocative food memory brings me back to a small village in the south of France called Fréjus - a sleepy seaside village west of Cannes on the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean, a view that only nature could create.

It was during time spent while I was working in Mougins for the summer season. My family was over to visit and I suggested we go visit this small beach I had been shown by my colleagues, more secluded and away from the mainstream tourist areas.

We were coming back from the beach that day and came upon a small roadside restaurant just on the outskirts of Fréjus. Quiet and quaint, nothing overly fancy about it, but it had an identifiable authenticity to it.

The meal’s main highlight was soupe de poisons, that classic French fish soup, with crusty bread and rouille, the mayonnaise-like sauce with garlic. The experience resonates with me to this day for a number of reasons - the gorgeous view over the Mediterranean, the company of my family, the simplicity of the restaurant and the great flavours of the soup.

It encapsulated everything about France and Mediterranean flavours - the rascasse, the garlic, the white wine. I have made the same meal at home many times, but can never emulate that one perfect summer’s day in Fréjus. I was once told what is seldom is wonderful and this truly was that wonderful moment.

John Kelly is head chef at Michelin-starred Lady Helen restaurant at Mount Juliet Estate