Caring for People

I have always based myself on the taste of things, the taste of life. It is important to get at the essence of each and every product. It’s a type of honesty. In my opinion, a red mullet fumet should be used for red mullet, not for sole or brill. I have also always been passionate about fish cooked "rosé à l'arête", but serving raw fish was inconceivable in the nineteen-eighties — people would just send it back. Finally, I am obsessed with freshness, and have had many an argument over the need to peel only the vegetables and filet only the fish that will be used for the immediate meal service. It remains my rule, but in the beginning, we weren't very organized and everyone waited too long. Slowly but surely, our time management techniques improved.

You have to give each person a special attention, to who that person is, what he or she came to live at the restaurant, guide him or her, make him or her  feel good.

Orienting people towards the tasting menu, which allowed me to develop flavours in a progression, also took time. A meal is a small ceremony that mounts in a crescendo; it excites curiosity, seduces, puzzles, intrigues, beguiles, yet never shocks. We must give special attention to each and every guest, to who he or she is as an individual, and to what they he or she has brought to the restaurant. We must accompany people in their culinary adventure without being didactic, and make sure they feel comfortable. It is with this in mind that Jane and I designed the interior decor of the restaurant. After all, we too are part of the house, and the family souvenirs naturally found their place among the second-hand antiques.

The team is more like a ship's crew, to me, made up entirely of nice people with a twinkle in their eyes. In just eight years, we went from having two chefs to having fifteen. When I was learning the trade, they would say it was the customers who were the kings and queens, and that it was we in the kitchen who were the slaves. I made the decision right then and there that nobody in my entourage, independent of his or her place in the hierarchy, would be treated that way. That is why I have never installed a counter for the finished dishes, because it would mean building a barrier between the kitchen and the dining room. Servers have to come into the kitchen itself to retrieve the food, which makes them better informed about the ingredients and the techniques. In the end, they become better ambassadors.

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