Gregory Marchand, chef owner, Frenchie

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th March 2017

Frenchie Covent Garden by Gregory Marchand is the newest outpost of the hugely popular Frenchie, Frenchie Wine Bar, Frenchie To Go and Frenchie Wine Shop hailing from the Rue du Nil in Paris.

He worked in London through most of his twenties at the Savoy, Mandarin Oriental and Fifteen for Jamie Oliver. It was Jamie who first gave him the kitchen nickname 'Frenchie'.

The Staff Canteen spoke to Gregory about the menu at Frenchie Covent Garden and how it echoes its Parisian counterpart but still has a style of its own, why Jamie Oliver is an inspirational leader and he reflects on how it was once him in the kitchen and he now has 60 staff.

Skate Hori
Skate Hori

Frenchie Covent Garden has been open for a year, how have the past 12 months been?

It’s my first restaurant in the UK but before that I spent time working here in London. It’s been a great first year, very intense but we are very happy with the restaurant and the way Frenchie has been received by London.

Do you think Frenchie has slotted in well with the London restaurant scene?

Yeah I think we’ve fit in well. I spent most of my twenties in London so I feel a little bit like a Londoner myself! There’s a real story behind why we are here and it’s a part of my own story too – I’m not just a French chef who wanted to open a restaurant in London, it’s a little bit more than that.
I think that’s what has made the restaurant successful, that real understanding of London and a real love for it. I think people can feel the honesty behind this project. The name Frenchie is French but in English and that’s what I am.
Although the London restaurant has the same DNA as the one in Paris, they are not the same, you can’t do a copy and paste. You need to understand the market and the people.

How much time do you spend at the restaurant?

frenchie covent garden
Frenchie Covent Garden 

I spend three days a week here, it’s not just a restaurant of a chef who owns many restaurants – this is mine and my wife’s restaurant. We made a big lifestyle decision to open a restaurant in London and it’s an extension of the Frenchie family. 

We have an apartment here and my wife comes here often with the kids – it’s great for my family and for me professionally too. It takes me out of the Parisian food scene which I love but it’s nice to see something different.

And what was the story behind the London project?

It was always an idea I had in my mind, it was where I met my wife and I spent my twenties there. I’d spent time in New York, than I came back and actually when I opened my restaurant in Paris I didn’t know Paris, I’d never spent any time there. So I was actually more of a stranger to Paris than to London. We had an opportunity to go and see a site in London and all of a sudden we had the site and the finance so we thought ‘well, let’s do it then’. It was important for me and the business not to be exclusively in France.

Top five restaurant meals
- l'Arpège (Paris)
- The Clove Club (London)
- The Gramercy Tavern (NYC)
- Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare
- La Grenouillère (La Madelaine-sous-Montreuil, France)

Five most influential chefs in career
- Jamie Oliver
- Michael Anthony (NYC, USA)
- Thomas Keller (French Laundry - Californie USA)
- Pascal Barbot (l'Astrance, France)
- Fergus Henderson (St John)

Top 5 comfort foods
- Ruben sandwich
- Fish & Chips
- Bacon & Eggs sandwich
- Bobun
- Cheese Omelette

You have two restaurants, a wine bar, ‘Frenchie to go’ and a wine shop, how do you make sure your style does not become diluted?

Now, I see myself as more of a creative director. I go to each restaurant and give them an idea of what the food and service should be. That’s why I’m in London three days a week, otherwise it does get diluted and things will slip. If you are here every week you can see this and put them back on track.

It’s also about training or hiring the right people and giving them room to express themselves within the Frenchie guideline. The food we do is not written in marble and we always evolve – it’s interesting to see how it evolves differently in Paris and London.

Talk us through the London menu.

The bacon scone and maple syrup has been really talked about. It’s something people really love because they can relate to it. We use a lot of cross cultural things, we have a banoffee on the menu which is not a banoffee pie but it’s banana, toffee and pecan nuts which works very well. It’s much lighter than a banoffee pie but people can relate to the taste. We do a duck foie gras, eel, beetroot and horseradish snow – it’s a good London meets Paris dish.

We do a bread and butter pudding but we use croissant and pain au chocolat instead of bread which works really well – they are just a few examples of dishes we play around with. Understanding the food culture of the country helps you to be authentic in the realisation of the dish.
I bring some ingredients from France but most of the produce is from the UK, I’m on the Eurostar twice a week so I bring my truffle and citrus fruit. Then on my way back to Paris I bring cheese from London!

Frenchie Banoffee
Frenchie Banoffee

Are your dishes inspired by the countries you have worked in?

It’s never been the primary motivation when we do a dish, it just happens naturally. I spent two years in New York, two years in Spain and some time in Hong Kong – my head chef in Paris was Israeli so he brought a lot of influences. Inspiration always starts from an ingredient, we use French technique but we use the world as a larder.

What is the key to your success?

Hard work, a little luck and mostly your team! That’s what I focus on now, the team. This is almost a new job for me as I’ve been a chef since I was 16 and no one teaches you how to manage 60 people. It’s challenging and you need to be a people person, whether it’s your staff or your customers, you need to like to please people.

Is it strange to look back to when you first opened and you were in the kitchen on your own and now you have 60 staff?

Yes! Eight years ago I had one waiter and I was doing everything including the washing up. I should probably think about that more because it makes me feel good to look back on it. You beat yourself up every day thinking you can do better and sometimes you should look back at what you’ve achieved. I came back from New York, my wife was seven months pregnant and we didn’t have any money and we opened a restaurant – we’ve come a long way. We’ve met a lot of great people and it’s been a great journey and we are very lucky to be able to operate restaurants both in London and Paris.

You said you started at 16, did you always want to be a chef?

I wasn’t the best in the class at cooking school and the passion came later when I was on the job and I realised I wasn’t going to do anything else. When I reached that point I decided I was going to do it well.

What was it like working with Jamie Oliver and what did you take from that experience?

Jamie is a great guy, and he taught me to take everything out and start again so using French technique but with Italian ingredients and much more simple food. He opened my eyes to a different way of doing things and I think that was set in stone for the rest of my apprenticeship. As a person he is a very inspirational leader, and it was great working at Fifteen. With Jamie, what you see is what you get.

Frenchie   smoked arctic char & chive sabayon

Frenchie  smoked arctic

char & chive sabayon

Let’s talk about accolades, are they something you are cooking for or are customers your focus?

I used to work for Danny Meyer and he was always telling me ‘the most important people to take care of are your staff’. If you take care of your staff they will take care of your customers – so we are trying to focus on our staff and then we will do the best we can. If accolades come then they come.

What is the future for the Frenchie brand?

We are just working on a new Frenchie cookbook which will be a bit of a biography but through recipes and stories. We have a residence in New York for six months starting in July and that’s it for 2017. We don’t have backers and it’s a family owned business so we are not looking to expand super quickly. There is still so much we can do at Frenchie Covent Garden so this will be our primary focus for the next year.

>>> Read more in The Staff Canteen Meets series here

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th March 2017

Gregory Marchand, chef owner, Frenchie