Meet the Chefs of Sodexo Live!: Chef Xavier Rousseau

Published on : 11/21/22
  • Xavier Rousseau: Executive Chef at Octave Restaurant and Chef for the French National Soccer Team

    The FIFA World Cup is always an exciting time of the year for soccer fans around the globe. For Xavier Rousseau, the chef for the French team Les Bleus, the work is year-round as he ensures that the players get the best, most nutritious meals off the field. This year’s tournament, held in Qatar from November 20-December 18, promises to be even more thrilling for the French as they defend last year’s title. We caught up with the chef to talk about menu creation and what it’s like to feed a world-class sports team.

    Interviewer: What is your role at Sodexo Live! and how long have you been there?  

    Chef Xavier Rousseau: Since 2017, I have been the executive chef of the Octave restaurant at the Seine Musicale in Paris, as well as the chef for the French national soccer team, Les Bleus. I joined Sodexo Live! in 2004 to work in a restaurant at Roland-Garros with Marc Veyrat.

    Interviewer: How old were you when you began to develop an interest in cooking? 

    Chef Xavier Rousseau: My interest in cooking started at a very young age — around 10 years old — because I liked to eat. I wanted to be a waiter, but I met a chef who advised me to become a cook, because it would be easier for me to go from the kitchen to the dining room rather than the other way around. In the end, I stayed in the kitchen!

    Interviewer: What were your first influences when you started cooking?

    Chef Xavier Rousseau: I was lucky enough to apprentice in a Michelin-starred restaurant in Rennes, Le Palais, with Marc Tizon, a chef passionate about nature, fresh produce, and combinations of tastes and spices. And he inspired me to continue.

    Interviewer: What culinary training have you received?

    Chef Xavier Rousseau: I did an apprenticeship in the starred Le Palais, which led to a CAP (Certificate of professional competency1) and then a BEP2 in cooking.

    Interviewer: What are the main challenges of your current position as chef of the French soccer team, and how are they different from your previous experiences?

    Chef Xavier Rousseau: As the chef of Les Bleus, I create menus for the players, who have specific needs as high-level athletes. We have to combine pleasure with nutritional requirements. For the major championships, we must factor in our travels to the various hotels and countries and still provide catering throughout the day, from breakfast to dinner, in accordance with the highest standards of quality and diet.

    Interviewer: What is your process for developing the menus?

    Chef Xavier Rousseau: The menus are designed to prioritize the seasonality and proximity of the products. In the Paris region, we are fortunate to have wonderful local growers, allowing us to promote short distribution channels. Of course, the menus are vetted by the team's medical staff. 

    Interviewer: How do your menus optimize performance?

    Chef Xavier Rousseau: For perfect meals, I follow the rule of 3: Three meals a day and three food groups must be followed. Carbohydrates for energy, proteins for the repair of muscles and fruits and vegetables for the protection of health. Obviously, the meals must adapt to the schedules of the matches.

    Interviewer: Is there anything that is off-limits? 

    Chef Xavier Rousseau: There is nothing that is completely forbidden, but we do follow certain principles like avoiding oils, mayonnaise and meat fat. We use herbs and spices for the taste rather than the excess of salt, and we always use quality, nutritional products.

    Interviewer: How do you integrate seasonality in your menu creation?

    Chef Xavier Rousseau: As the seasons change, so do the menus and the menu proposals, which allows me to integrate fresh products and to feed my creativity. Working with as many seasonal products as possible is a priority, because the fresher a product is, the better its tastes and the higher its nutritional qualities.

    Interviewer: Among the dishes you have created, what are your favorites?

    Chef Xavier Rousseau: I have a few signature dishes, such as the salmon with chicory, the scallop burger, the smoked salmon mi-cuit with watercress cream or the pollack with Iberian jabugo shavings. The good thing is that I created these dishes for traditional catering and then they were used for big events like a semi-final at Roland-Garros, a big gala event, or the Grand Prix d'Amérique lunch at the Vincennes racecourse.

    Interviewer: What do you think are the main trends most in demand these days?

    Chef Xavier Rousseau: In my opinion, the current trend is the attention given to the product: freshness, proximity, a more pronounced expectation of quality from the consumer, the desire to have a delightful experience on the plate. Today, everyone travels and customers expect a cuisine with influences from all over the world.



    1CAP (certificat d'aptitude professionnelle): The CAP (certificat d'aptitude professionnelle) is a national professional diploma issued by the French Ministry of Education. It is completed in 2 years after the 9th grade, either full-time or as an apprenticeship. Depending on the student's profile and needs, the diploma can also be obtained in 1, 2 or 3 years. A diploma for professional integration, the CAP trains students in the techniques and professional know-how of the trades. The program includes general education (French, math, etc.), professional education and internships.

    2Brevet d’études professionnelles (BEP) vocational studies certificate: can lead on to the vocational baccalaureate.
    See a quick overview of the two.