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Interview: Fred Sirieix on his relationship with food

Ian Chaddock

BY Ian Chaddock

30th May 2023 Food Heroes

Interview: Fred Sirieix on his relationship with food

French maître d'hôtel Fred Sirieix talks to Reader's Digest about LU biscuits, his upbringing with food and his unending love for all things culinary

Fred Sirieix's relationship with food began with LU biscuits in his childhood and blossomed into something so much more. Now, he's a maître d'hôtel and appears on Channel 4's First Dates, making a living out of his fever-high passion for the culinary world. 

RD: You are the brand ambassador for the biscuit brand LU. What are your memories of eating them as a boy?

Fred: I couldn’t believe it when LU contacted me to be a brand ambassador because these are biscuits my mum has been buying since I was a kid. Growing up, LU biscuits would always be in a cabinet under our stairs, and my brother and I would raid them. Two days after they were bought, they would be gone because of how much we love them.

"Growing up, LU biscuits would always be in a cabinet under our stairs, and my brother and I would raid them"

We would mainly have them for an afternoon snack. When you finish school in France, you’d have a glass of milk with some chocolates and biscuits. For me, I love dunking the biscuits two by two because of how much I love the taste; one biscuit just doesn’t do it. I still love the biscuits to this day; I don't drink milk in the afternoon anymore, but I have them with a nice cup of coffee instead.

Fred Sirieix as the brand ambassador for LU biscuitsCredit: LU 

RD: What are your favourite flavours in the LU biscuit range and why?

Fred: I love Le Petit Ganache. It’s the one with a little chocolatey surprise inside, and the richness of the chocolate makes it so much more delicious. The French are really good at pastries, and I’m not just saying that because I’m French. Depending on where you go in France, every region has a different speciality. You can travel to France and see different recipes and dishes, but we’re particularly good at pastries, and LU biscuits are a part of that tradition and heritage.

RD: It's well known that you're a huge lover of food. How did you first fall in love with food, and how has your relationship with cuisine developed over the years?

Fred: I was born into it in the sense that my parents were both nurses but can cook like chefs. My mum knows the whole French repertoire without having the recipes. She'll say, “Okay, I’m going to make a mousse au chocolat, I’m going to make a beef bourguignon," and she goes into the kitchen, doesn’t measure anything, and just makes it. My dad always said that we don’t have a lot of money, but we always eat well. You’d have to sit at the table before the food comes because you wait for the food, the food doesn’t wait for you.

"You’d have to sit at the table before the food comes because you wait for the food, the food doesn’t wait for you"

I did catering college from the age of 16 to 20, so I learned about cooking and French gastronomy and began working in restaurants. I wanted to be a chef, but realised it wasn’t really for me because I’m more of a social animal, and being in the kitchen between four walls and the heat and the grease isn’t really my cup of tea. I love cooking, just not professionally. That’s how my relationship with food started, and it’s to the point where I need the table set the old-fashioned way as my parents did.

I can’t sit down and eat something that isn’t good, and I don’t mean eating expensive produce. Cooking things to perfection is about having fresh produce, it’s in simple things like that. For example, I saw a cabbage at my local fruit and vegetable shop, and it reminded me of this beautiful recipe for stuffed cabbage, called Chou Farci, which is cabbage stuffed with meats with a lovely tomato sauce. It’s easy to make, cheap and so delicious. I’m very particular about where I shop for fresh produce. I love my local butcher, fruit and veg shop and fishmonger—I know them and they know me and what I like. It’s important for me to have these little interactions.

RD: Going from the love of food to love in general, what is the most unusual or amusing incident from working on the show First Dates? What does the future hold for the show?

Fred: We are filming the 10th-anniversary series at the moment, and it’s very special. If you told me a decade ago that we'd be doing ten years this year, I don't think I would have believed you. The reason why people love the show is because it is fundamentally good at art; nobody is there to be set up. I’ve also got lots of friends on the show this year, which makes it very interesting.

Fred Sirieix as the brand ambassador for LU biscuitsCredit: LU

RD: You have managed and worked at a number of Michelin-starred restaurants in both London and France. How do those experiences differ and what did you enjoy most about them?

Fred: I've always worked with the best because it’s something that was instilled in me by my parents. Being around the best people is how you learn the most, and I like to be challenged by people who are better than me. I have a very strong work ethic; I’m like a trooper until the work is finished. My thing was always to be the best at what I did.

"Being around the best people is how you learn, and I like to be challenged by people who are better than me"

When I started my career, I wanted to be the best waiter in town. If you have that attitude, you can’t afford to slack because you have to deliver excellence, and that comes at a price. The cost is you've got to be the first in and last out, and you've got to apply yourself. Whether you do well or badly in life, every day is just 24 hours, and I’d rather be known for doing things well and being trusted for being good. It’s tough, but I’d rather it be that way and seeing the effort than just being Mr. Average who couldn’t care less about anything.

RD: How do you personally like to surprise your loved ones?

Fred: It's the little things that people tend to remember. There’s this quote by Aristotle, “Excellence is not an act. Excellence is a habit.” It’s the things you do repeatedly that make you who you are, not some big shebang that you put on for a weekend. It’s the little things like phone calls, texts and flowers. For example, if somebody comes for dinner and they don’t like lamb, you make sure that though everyone else is served lamb, that person’s got chicken. You remember. It’s these little things that make people feel warm, and feel like you are someone they can rely on and count on.

RD: And finally, Fred, what have you got for the summer and the month ahead?

Fred: I'm planning a holiday. We haven’t finalised it, but we're looking at Cuba. I've only been to Jamaica in the Caribbean, but Cuba is different. I think there is something quite mystical and magical about Cuba, so maybe that’s where we’re going. I think the jury’s still out; we're going to have to make a decision.

Fred is the brand ambassador for biscuit brand LU, who has recently launched its Le Petit Ganache. 

Banner credit: LU

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