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Les Grandes Tables du Monde: 70 years of friendship, beyond borders

by Preschey Marilou

An Italian and a Frenchman, a restaurateur who married a chef and a chef who is also a restaurateur: between them, Antonio Santini and Marc Haeberlin speak well of the state of mind of the association founded in 1954. Each brings to the collective. And since then, friendship has always brought members together around the world.

The Grandes Tables du Monde evolve with the times, but meetings and exchanges will remain the fundamental values ​​of a solid base. We dug through the archives and browsed the menus from the 70s; we discovered the black and white photos of the gala dinners, which showed to what extent the Tradition and Quality meetings already exuded the joy of getting together. It even sang well! Since then, the association, created in 1954, has changed its name, and successive turns have been taken at the same pace as gastronomy, advancing by leaps and bounds. The Grandes Tables du Monde have kept friendship as an anchor point. A fundamental value that binds members together.

The perfect combo

With Marc Haeberlin and Antonio Santini, we have retraced the unique journey of an association that has survived the decades without aging, even being a step ahead of developments in haute cuisine. David Sinapian has gathered around him the perfect combo to stay the course: within the board of directors, the pillars recall the founding values ​​, and the new guard carries the association with its energy. And it works; everyone moves forward.

The common point?

Without a doubt, a level of excellence on all levels, where the art of service and gastronomy are as important as each other. Logical, since the association was created by six restaurateurs in the flamboyant Paris of the 1950s*, but who were quickly joined by great chef-owners from all over France and then from abroad. Cuisine and hospitality are, therefore, absolutely on the same level. But for Antonio Santini, the strong identity of each person is also essential: «When we look at the applications of those who wish to join the association, we are also attentive to the uniqueness of their house. Fundamentally, each member has a strong personality. In its way, each table represents its country, cuisine, and wines, and we are rich in this shared culture.»

*Read the article « Values ​​in Foundation. » See the QR code at the end of the article.

« Our association represents the great history of cuisine in France and worldwide. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. A story in progress!  » 

 Antonio Santini

What if a restaurateur asks you what the association can offer him?

«I would tell him that it is a chance to exchange friendships with the greatest chefs in the world on the evolution of great cuisine and entertaining ways, to learn from them, and to build things together. And I would add, like Kennedy in ’61, in his inauguration speech: « Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask yourself what you can do for your country. « Joining us with the idea that everyone can contribute to the collective is the right state of mind. Each member brings with them the richness of their thinking and their uniqueness. Because it is all together that we move forward.»

First gala dinner at Les Crayères : « I remember our first gala meal, on the occasion of our entry into the Tradition et Qualité association, in 1992 at Les Crayères in Reims. My wife and I immediately realized how lucky we were to share our table with all these great chefs. Since then, our friendship has only grown.»

 Antonio Santini

Haute gastronomy on the move

«In the past, in a large restaurant, it was unthinkable to see a table without a tablecloth or to come without a tie. Today, these establishments with lighter service are also substantial houses. The difference between a restaurant and a great restaurant lies in its personality and the perfect harmony between the chef’s know-how and the art of hosting. The association follows the movement of world cuisine, pushing us to move forward.» 

Antonio Santini

The role of a restaurateur

«The role of a restaurateur is to be ready to give everything to their customer, striving to meet their expectations. To provide them with an experience that will remain in the story of their life, with cuisine and service that ensure they have a good time. A moment that will stay in the history of their life. A moment of cultural pleasure, at the table where everyone contributes something unique.» Antonio Santini

Marc Haeberlin l’Auberge de l’Ill

«It has always been friendship, not the business side, that matters to us. We are happy to see each other again at each meeting and talk together.» 

Marc Haeberlin

The decisive moments of Marc Haeberlin

«I was President for a dozen years, and I remember that for my first speech in 2001, I was shaking like a leaf having to speak in front of these sacred monsters! We had incredible moments when we honored Gaston Lenôtre, Paul Bocuse, or Anni e Feolde. To continue, we needed the association to move with the times. David Sinapian took over from me by being more in tune with the internet generation, with n and findings to put our members forward.»

70 years of Les Grandes Tables du Monde: The initial idea

« André Terrail explained that the association was a sort of « Jockey Club of haute cuisine. » They sent their best customers with their guide stamped each time they visited a restaurant. After twelve, they received a case of champagne. Today, it is rather the collaborators that we address to each other! Very quickly, the association opened up to the province and then abroad. Initially created by a few Parisian restaurateurs, chef-owners expanded it, starting with Raymond Thuillier in 1956. We met to party, and everyone sang. From these founding values, we have maintained our friendship. I believe it was Georges Blanc who had the idea of ​​abandoning the somewhat overused name « Tradition and Quality » and identifying the association with a still current name: Les Grandes Tables du Monde. »

«The common point among all members around the world? Highlighting great service and haute cuisine, each in their own way.» 

Marc Haeberlin

Monsieur Paul and the bus driver: «In 2001 in Paris, we had booked a boat on the Seine for our gala, and we therefore had to be on time. To get to the pier, we rented an old double-decker bus. Paul Bocuse sat next to the driver and asked him to go around the Place de l’Etoile three times to please all our foreign colleagues who were coming to Paris for the first time. We were almost late!»

Marc Haeberlin

Also worth reading: the other articles from « Coeur des Chefs » about Les Grandes Tables du Monde.

Le site de l’association Les Grandes Tables du Monde

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