On the menu of this special report are all the ingredients for a wickedly lively time : The foundations, today’s actions, the members’ vision and international development.
- A foundation built of values : Friendship and excellence
- Necessary turning points
- A shared vision
- Rich in our differences
As to the definition of a great restaurant, the members are unanimous. More than the cooking, it is the “experience” which customers come to find. With respect and admiration for the culinary identities of others, they argue that the quality of a dish alone does not make a member. What makes a great restaurant is elsewhere, far beyond. Out of those we interviewed, welcoming and the art of receiving come first.
Serge Schaal :
“A great restaurantis a place where you have a timeless experience. There’s that extra bit of soul that’s hard to describe. There is what you see on your plate, and then, above all, there is the emotion which people feel. Customers must feel they are experiencing something special, without realising that the whole team is at work to satisfy them. That being said, we can no longer have the same attitude towards service as we did 40 years ago. We need to break the rules and be more simple, more natural, take position at just the right time, be more and more discreet and shun this watchful hovering attitude so as not to frighten the new generation.”
The room sets the tempo
“It all happens in the pass”. The dining room must keep the upper hand and set the tempo. It’s not the kitchen that prepares the plates then calls in the wait staff, it’s the dining room that controls the pace and asks for things to be sent out. I have always fought for the dining room to be as important as the kitchen. I don’t have any trouble with chefs getting more media coverage, but at work, everyone is on the same footing. It wasn’t so easy at first: Nicolas learned everything he knows in the big brigades; he was formatted by a kitchen that had full decision-making power. As a former environmental engineer, who chose this profession out of passion, I did not know the codes. Today we talk a lot, I understand the logic of the kitchen and of each dish. On his end, Nicolas knows that if customers come back, it is because they have been won over by the welcome we give them.”
The fundamental values
“This is the association we dreamed of belonging to, which includes the world’s finest establishments. We remain very proud of these French foundations. If so many foreigners wish to join us today, it is because the association’s beating heart is in France. Together with all the members, we share this belief in working in excellence. Each person is an ambassador of their territory with their own interpretation. When we meet at the congress, we all look at each other with the same regard, the sense of equality. The younger admire the work of the wiser, who are happy to see a new dynamic generation coming in. Equality in diversity is the message that our association must convey”.
“The association developed little by little, without any stops and starts. Slowly, we got up to speed with the society. When I first joined in 2000, no one was talking about social media. Today, they are our best means of being known and recognised internationally. We are a reflection of haute gastronomy representing all the professions in the fine restaurants sector. And at the same time, we have to keep up the spirit of a friendly club”.
Creating an atmosphere
“Atmosphere is what makes a superior establishment. Customers should feel good as soon as they set foot in your establishment and even before that: from the very first phone call! A fine dining restaurant is a unique experience that stirs emotions. It’s a bit like going to hear a great opera: you sit down and people are there to create an experience for you, they talk to you and touch you, all the while remaining very simple in that welcome and kindness”.
The collective challenge is global
“I am delighted that there are more and more applications coming in from all over the world. Admittedly, we in France we are very spoiled with products, terroirs and cuisine. So, welcoming these talented chefs from abroad into the association creates emulation and also enables us to become better”.
What about tomorrow?
“We will need to put the focus on traveller loyalty”. Just as we exchange apprentices between our establishments, we have to create informal pathways between our restaurants for our customers. We must need to continue to engage on the major social and environmental issues of our day, such as parity today and the conservation of oceans tomorrow. We’ve started to take to the floor, and do not intend to stop!”
A fully-shared passion
“In the past, the spouses of cooks would often be working behind the scenes, almost pro bono. People coming to our restaurant are just as likely to see Michel as me: we have poured ourselves into this for 41 years and share everything 50/50. That’s how parity starts, in each home. We have achieved every possible success in Puymirol. The secret is work and a good rapport. Neither of us have ever lived for anything but the passion for this profession. I see and hear this whole new generation of talented and tireless cooks. I think the battle has become even more fierce now. But we were in less of a hurry before”.
Alexandre Gauthier, (La Grenouillère, La Madelaine-sous-Montreuil)
‘A great restaurant needs to always be in motion to in step with its times, and not just fulfil a culinary expectation. It has to be a player and a local conscience committed to all the subjects it addresses. It is a joy and a pride to be part of this legendary club of the Grandes Tables du Monde. And it is also a duty of constancy and constant motion. It is essential that we be an association of our day, one that takes into consideration the major issues in society while trying to provide answers. If every member realises that this association is a strength, then we can take action more easily and effectively together, as opposed to each on our own”.
Birgit et Heinz Reitbauer (Steirereck im Stadtpark, Vienne, Autriche.)
“At a superior establishment, the experience is an all-encompassing one. It rests, of course, on the cuisine, but encompasses all those details that ultimately combine into one, so that our customers find themselves in an extraordinary atmosphere: made first of emotion which our teams convey, but also by the lighting or the table design. If Alain Chapel were here, (Heinz Reitbauer was Chapel’s student in Mionnay in the early 90s), he would probably be very surprised to see us placing so much importance to this set of elements that build a gastronomic experience in its entirety, when he was focused entirely on his cooking. He would also be surprised to see how much our customers enjoy sharing every step of the day with the rest of the world. In this media-flooded world, nothing goes unnoticed. Hence the importance of asserting the unique personality of our establishments and offering our customers a moment they will not experience anywhere else”.
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