A talk with Bruno Loubet

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 2nd May 2014
By Aimee Davis We headed to Hotelympia to listen to a man that has worked as a chef in the navy, trained under the likes of Pierre Koffmann and Raymond Blanc and cites his mother and grandmother as his inspiration. Welcome to the life of Bruno Loubet. Starting at the age of 14 and growing up surrounded by good food, Bruno headed to catering school in Bordeaux to hone his skills. He says: “It’s difficult for young people to find their way, I’ve been lucky to find my passion so soon.” Having found his passion “from day one” Bruno entered into the French Navy as a chef which he said had “a big reputation to cook good food.” He tried a lot of things and had an ethic of “making the most of it.” He looked at what other chefs were doing and used this as a basis to improve himself. His time in the Navy also brought freedom and experimentation for Bruno as he was allowed to “go to market to choose the food I wanted to cook” and to “try a lot of things”. However this responsibility came at a price as, upon entering La Tante Claire, Bruno found it difficult to adjust to Pierre Koffmann’s kitchen. He cites Pierre as a “passionate chef with the best restaurant in Europe at the time” but it was “a shock to go from doing what I wanted to then doing what Pierre wanted. At the time I didn’t fully understand and appreciate the opportunity that I had.” It was this change that led Bruno to leave after three months.   Leaving after such a short amount of time “was a failure for me…I had to show that I was capable and that I could do it; I had to prove myself as a chef. I realised cooking was a lot of knowledge and passion and once I started to take this on board, I used it to improve myself.” He moved on to Gastronome One where he put his head down and cooked his “heart out for 2 years,” and became Young Chef of the Year using copper pans he’d brought himself from Putney flea market. “It was great at 22 years old to be doing the food that I believed in and was passionate about, food with great flavours. At the time in London it was very nouveau cuisine which for me was bland cooking.” Bruno went against the norm at the time and had “courage to breakthrough with a different kind of cooking which was recognised.” At the time Raymond Blanc then opened Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons and won chef of the year which started Bruno’s next stage of his life as he moved on to work with Raymond. “There were people there like Marco Pierre White, the kitchen was full of talent so for me to come there as a young French guy having just won Young Chef of the Year was a challenge, for the first three to four months I was lost. But then I started to take the bull by the horns and started to enjoy it more.” Working under Raymond who was full of ideas (sometimes “more than we could execute in the kitchen”) Bruno didn’t have much influence but didn’t feel like he needed it as for him it was more about “running the kitchen”. This best thing for Bruno was the passion that Raymond had which translated to everyone in the kitchen. “His passion showed as there were so many star chefs coming out of his kitchen that were driven.” Photo courtesy of Amy Murrel Next on the agenda was the Inn on the Park, (or as it’s known now the Four Seasons) where he was general manager at 23 years old, in charge of a fine dining hotel. He remembers a time when he was asked: “Why are you not using more expensive ingredients, more lobster etc?” “I said I was more than happy cooking with a piece of leek as it’s just as good. Using simple ingredients wasn’t the done thing at the time but it wasn’t about winning stars for me.” For a 5 star hotel this was seen as unusual at the time but the hotel was happy to give Bruno free reign and it paved the way for him to create dishes using those simple ingredients. It was this way of cooking that has shaped the rest of Bruno’s career. His move to Australia strengthened this as he was made to think and cook in a simple way to coincide with the way of life out there. ‘I started humbly but after a few months people started to trust us and we began to get recognised after winning their trust.’ However after nine years London came calling and he was back looking for an opportunity to grow and “prove myself again”. A position in a hotel in Clerkenwell was this opportunity, as Bruno says himself: “I saw the potential and the chance to work my way up.” Bistrot Bruno Loubet This then led on to the opening of The Grain Store, a restaurant that since opening last June has already won sustainable restaurant of the year. This was Bruno’s chance to show that the “meat and sauce doesn’t have to be the star of the plate”. The idea of a vegetable menu had “always been in my head; I wanted to make the vegetable the main star element of the plate and the rest as a compliment to the dish”.  This isn’t however a vegetarian restaurant this is a restaurant where little amounts of meat and fish are used per dish. “We can’t sustain the amount we eat; you don’t need to have a large amount; you can have a tasty dish with little high quality meat rather than a large amount that isn’t great quality.” With the great success of The Grain Store, next on the agenda is a place in the country. “For me now I want to enjoy myself, grow my own veg, cheese and wine and perhaps open a cookery school. I want to try and enjoy all the things that I haven’t so far been able to.” Bruno was interviewed at Hotelympia by Sophie Allcock, communications manager at Custard Communications.    

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 2nd May 2014

A talk with Bruno Loubet