Lyle’s + Septime16 February, 2015
THE ENVIRONMENT INFLUENCES HOW YOU PERCEIVE THE TASTE OF THE FOOD YOU WILL EAT... THE STRENGTH IN A RESTAURANT OFTEN RESIDES IN THE COHERENCE BETWEEN THE FRAME, THE SERVICE AND THE CUISINE.
In 2009, aged 27, Bertrand Grébaut became the youngest French chef that year to receive a Michelin star. He was head chef at L’Agapé in Paris, having trained under its founder, Alain Passard. Last year, Grébaut earned a second star for his own restaurant, Septime, which opened in 2011 in the 11th arrondisement – the original bourgeois bohème district. Grébaut is renowned for his progressive and seasonal cooking, while the restaurant, with its scrubbed wooden tabletops and open kitchen, has a laidback, informal warmth that belies the sophistication of the food.
James Lowe, formerly of St. John’s Bread & Wine in London’s Spitalfields, is head chef at Lyle’s in Shoreditch. With a poured concrete floor, whitewashed walls, large industrial lights and Ercol furniture, his restaurant echoes the pared-back look of St. John’s as well as the integrity of its ingredients. In 2015 it secured a Michelin star, less than two years after opening. Lowe shares Grébaut’s serious, creative and honest approach to food, and so invited him take part in the inaugural edition of The Guest Series, where chefs from around the world showcase their talents at Lyle’s Shoreditch home.
On the blustery Tuesday evening that Grébaut presided over, the atmosphere at Lyle’s was calm and low-key, cutting a contrast to the inspired food presented to guests that night. Grébaut and Lowe, supported by a bevy of young cooks, concentrated quietly in the open kitchen in the corner, lit by battleship-grey desk lamps. They produced a parade of extraordinary dishes, including red brussels sprouts with veal tongue, Kolhapuri-spiced pheasant, Brill on earthy greens, and tender Welsh Black mutton. The meal’s conclusion was not one, but two puddings, and a melt-in-the-mouth butter cakelet as a comforting petit-four to see the diners back out into the rainy London night.
Cereal caught up with Bertrand in advance of his time at Lyle’s to find out more about his culinary approach:
How and why did you learn to cook ?
I chose this career because I love to eat. So I decided to learn how to cook. I had just finished three years of school as a graphic artist and to catch up lost time, I enrolled l’école supérieur de cuisine française to learn the foundations of classic French cuisine.
What does Septime bring to Paris ?
By creating Septime we wanted to respond to a demand. We had to create a restaurant that operates with the best products, the best cuisine we could offer and an ultra-professional service in a relaxed ambience and reasonable prices. To do so we were obliged to settle down in a working class neighborhood.
What makes your cooking recognizable?
I work on the singularity of my cuisine every day. I believe that it takes time before a style can be identified and defined. Our modern Parisian cuisine finds its roots in tradition and in a constant research of simplicity and purity. That it is recognized more and more throughout the years.
When it comes to ingredients, do you believe less is more?
Less is more for sure, when it refers to ingredients and gesture. The ultimate goal is to provoke the most emotion with the less ingredients and gestural possible.
What do you think makes a chef great?
A unique cuisine and the humility to see that a restaurant does not only rest on the performance of the chef.
How important do you think the environment in which you eat is to the taste of the food?
The experience at the restaurant is a whole. The environment influences how you perceive the taste of the food you will eat. We strive daily from the moment the client makes a reservation until the moment they leave the restaurant to ensure they find themselves in a pleasant environment. The strength in a restaurant often resides in the coherence between the frame, the service and the cuisine.
What’s the most important piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Alain Passard gave me three, repeatedly.
“fais comme pour toi” meaning; do as if it were for yourself
“gomme ton geste” meaning; don’t make any unnecessary movements or gestures
“mets du rythme” meaning; keep a good pace, a consistent rhythm