The Chef's Secret of

Stephane Buron

Chef’s Secret: Nice to meet you, mister Buron. Could you tell us how things got started here for you at Courchevel, together with chef Michel Rochedy?

 

Stéphane Buron: Well, I arrived here at Le Chabichou about 31 years ago, by chance in fact. At that time I was working at the Côte d’Azur, but I didn’t feel like spending the winter season there, so I was looking for another challenge. The chef referred me to Michel Rochedy, who was back then one of the two Michelin starred chefs at the village of Courchevel. Since the moment I arrived here, I’ve never been bored. Every year, every season is different. Mister Rochedy was always aiming for the best, looking to find new things and trying to improve his cuisine. He has given me the freedom and the trust to develop my own style and approach quite fast. Before I arrived at Courchevel, I had been working together with some of the best chefs for more than seven years. So I mastered the fundamentals of the French cuisine, its techniques and flavours. Here I got the opportunity to step up and to develop a cuisine that represents my own vision, as well as the identity of Le Chabichou.

A tree full of appetizers called “La Planche du moment”: a little glazed foie gras cherry, a carrots tartlet with smoked eel and a plankton meringue with oyster jelly.

Chef’s Secret: So teamwork is the secret for success?

 

Stéphane Buron: That’s correct. Our restaurant is like a family home, open to every young and motivated team member that wants to learn and to do the best he or she can. That’s for every young chef the best way to develop his or her skills. I have been lucky enough to learn a lot from the greatest chefs I have worked with when I was a young chef myself. That’s how I learned the basics to be a successful chef later on in my career. And now it’s time for me to share my experience and knowledge with the younger generation. My son works here in the kitchen as well by the way, so it’s really nice that I can share my expertise with him. And the other way around, working with all those young people, keeps me young as well. You exchange ideas, skills and knowledge. It’s about giving and taking. Of course it’s always hard when people decide to leave to pursue a new challenge, but that’s  just how it goes, especially when you work with many young people. You have to be thankful when someone has put much effort in collaborating with you in the team for several years and wish them the very best for the future, although it’s hard to see them go.

“The Léman lake whitefish” – Marinated whitefish with salt, perfumed with liquorice, black radish and black garlic.

Chef’s Secret: You are nominated again for The Best Chef Awards. How does that feel? What does the concept and community of The Best Chef mean to you?

 

Stéphane Buron: I consider it really important to participate in international competitions, as it will make your name and cuisine known on a global scale. So yes, I’m proud to be part of the top 300 of The Best Chef Awards. Just like last year, I’m definitely going to attend the award show in Milan. It’s great to meet chefs all over the world and to discover what they are focusing on. Again, it’s about sharing your passion in other to get inspired by others.

 

In my opinion a lot has been changing in the gastronomic world over the past few years. It’s amazing to know that my creations are being seen all over the world via social media and via networks like The Best Chef. This new evolution gives me the opportunity to learn from other chefs all over the world. So the power of the network of The Best Chef is that it brings people, techniques and cultures together, so we can share our passion and inspiration which often leads to new ideas.

“The Léman lake whitefish” – Marinated whitefish with salt, perfumed with liquorice, black radish and black garlic.

Chef’s Secret: Can you guess who will win The Best Chef Awards this year?

 

Stéphane Buron: Not me, I guess (laughing). But of course I hope to get a good ranking again this year. What I really like about The Best Chef Awards is that the voting is done by fellow chefs, so it’s unique to have a culinary list that is driven by the community itself.

“The garden Peas” – Creamed, Oscietra caviar, lemon jelly and a thin crunchy leaf.

Chef’s Secret: Back to Le Chabichou now. How would you describe your cooking style here at the restaurant? We heard you consider local produce and terroir as the utmost important?

 

Stéphane Buron: That’s correct. In fact it was just a couple of years ago that our vision started to chance. We’ve always used to be looking for the very best ingredients for our guests, that’s for sure. But gradually we started realizing that people that come to Le Chabichou want to discover the food that is typical for the region, and therefore unique. We went looking for small and local farmers from the area and now we have a great network of passionate artisans from around the Rhône Valley.

 

To be able to offer our guests the best of the best, we also chance our menu quite often. We have 17 dishes on the menu and the menu changes about five to eight times a year, based on what nature has to offer us. In winter time we even have four different menus, gradually introducing new dishes month after month. E.g. in the beginning of the winter there’s first the white truffle and then the black truffle or in late winter we have more fish from the lakes than in the first months, and when spring starts there are so many nice ingredients like asparagus, morels, peas, and so on. Over the years we have built a huge database of recipes and food pictures, but we still want to innovate time after time.

“The garden Peas” – Creamed, Oscietra caviar, lemon jelly and a thin crunchy leaf.

Chef’s Secret: Are you proud to be one of the important representatives of the French gastronomy?

 

Stéphane Buron: Of course I am proud to be part of such a rich gastronomic culture. I have a strong background in the French gastronomy, thanks to the top chefs I have been working with throughout my career. The French cuisine is famous all over the world, as it’s like the mother of the gastronomic culture. Many French chefs went cooking abroad and that way they have influenced the rest of the world with our traditions, techniques and styles. It’s great that you can share your vision with the rest of the wold like that.

 

For me it has been quite important to win several awards, amongst which the Prix Taittinger was the most important. But also Gault & Millau and Michelin means a lot for French chefs. When you get the recognition of the French community that changes a lot.

Chef’s Secret: The valley of Courchevel and the surrounding villages are an outstanding culinary region with so many Michelin starred restaurants. Why is that?

 

Stéphane Buron: When I came to Courchevel about 30 years ago, there were only 2 Michelin starred restaurants, located just across each other. So over the years I’ve seen how the audience and the restaurant offering has changed in this town. The high end, deluxe hotel industry is booming here nowadays. Courchevel has the privilege to welcome many fine dining lovers and they often find their way to Le Chabichou, as many restaurants in the village are owned and managed by financial investors, while our resort is a true family business. People clearly value that personal approach, so that’s one of the secrets to the success of Le Chabichou. When you come here, you can be almost 100% sure that mister Rochedy and I will be there, leading the team in the kitchen. And people like it when they get a warm welcome of the chef himself.

“The Lemon” – Dessert like a lemon in different textures: soft cake, lemon and melissa sun-dried, fresh cream cheese and lemon sorbet.

Chef’s Secret: You’re already working at Le Chabichou for a long time. Where do you keep finding your inspiration every day?

 

Stéphane Buron: My most important goal is to make our guests happy. As I already mentioned before, my cooking philosophy is about simplicity and therefore about perfection. I want to create dishes that are 100% right from a technical point of view, but without making that technical perfection too obvious. It has to feel effortless for our guests. They have to get a feeling of curiosity, like “wow, this tastes fantastic, I really want to know how the chef created this dish”.

 

In my opinion a dish should be like a piece of art. Every plate is like a tableau. You use all your senses when you’re eating, so I always want to create eye candy, as well beautiful flavours. Each dish should give our guests this wow-feeling. But that involves more than cooking skills and a talent for aesthetics. A culinary creation combines so many different elements: flavour, technique, temperature, plating and so on. We only managed to deliver that kind of quality by investing a lot in terms of staff, education and much more. It takes time to create high quality dishes, time we are happy to invest, as delivering the best possible results is of the utmost importance for us.

“The Rhubarb, The Strawberry” – A sugar bowl, strawberry cream, rhubarb emulsion, rhubarb sundried with a strawberry juice, little meringues and an olive oil cake.

“Opera Revisité” – The chef’s interpretation of a classic Opéra pastry.

Chef’s Secret: Do you have a favourite ingredient?

 

Stéphane Buron: I must admit I do have a favourite ingredient, that I really like to use in my menus and that’s the langoustine. It’s very sensitive and delicate, so it doesn’t need too much extras. What you add needs to put the power and beauty of the product in the spotlight, without allowing spices and other condiments to dominate the dish. Of course we will never use frozen langoustines. The fresher they are, the better.

“The Chlorophyll” – Blancmange, fermented milk and garden herbs.

Chef’s Secret: You’re at the top of the French gastronomy. What plans and ambitions do you still have?

 

Stéphane Buron: Although we have indeed won many awards and got recognition on an international level, we still want to get better every day. We keep on dreaming of the third Michelin star, a higher score in the guide of Gault & Millau and a top ranking in the list of The Best Chef Awards. Nevertheless, that’s not my main driver and not the reason I get up every day to do what I love to do. What is quintessential for me is the happiness of our guests. When they love our food and the experience and when they come back to Le Chabichou time after time, that’s what makes us really satisfied. And the fact that we do have many regular guests, means a lot to us.

“The Veal” – Braised sweetbreads, glazed with a liquorice juice, parmentier and baby carrots.

“The Turbot” – Grilled on a seafood platter, served with virgin sauce. 

“The lobster” – Lobster grilled like on the barbecue at Savoy vine wood, Emulsion of Chignin wine, Celtruce roasted and seaweed butter.

“The Pig” – Caramelized breast, glazed in verbena juice, pig parmentier with summer truffle, little pork pâté with herbs and some mushrooms.

Practical information

Le Chabichou Hôtel, Restaurants & Spa, 90 Route des Chenus, Courchevel 1850, 73120 Saint Bon Tarentaise, Savoie, France | +33 4 79 08 00 55 | info@lechabichou.com | www.lechabichou.com |

Interview by Sarah De Hondt

Photography by Adriaan van Looy

@hungryformore.mag

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