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In conversation with Emmanuel Hébrard at the Abbaye de la Bussière
‘La gastronomie est l’art d’utiliser la nourriture pour créer le bonheur’
In January 2016 Emmanuel left the Abbaye to set up his own restaurant in his hometown of Clermont Ferrand. When the hotel opens on February 12, the award winning chef
Guillaume Royer will take up the reins. We shall be bringing you more details.
Hébrard is 29. He had worked as sous-chef to the former chef, Olivier Elzer, and took over the reigns from him in June 2009. The media attention is something he has to balance with the real job of producing fine cuisine and charming his guests with the food. Charm is not something he is short of: there is none of the arrogance and self-importance that sometimes comes with star chef status. But TV and the press want to know more, there are promotions to run, competitions to enter and the celeb culture to contend with.
The Chef is developing his own style, concentrating on finding new suppliers, better quality products and modern presentation rather than some of the gimmickry which is fashionable in some of today’s cuisine. The fact that the food has to be A1 delicious goes without saying. He goes twice a week to the Dijon market to his major suppliers such as his butcher Alviset and poultry supplier La Bressane. ‘Progression’ is his watchword using the much loved ingredients and giving them a new twist with dishes such as Escargots de Bourgogne en risotto d’orge perlée et écume de fromage de chèvre…… a risotto with snails and goat’s cheese dressing.
‘At present, I am on the lookout to introduce a different type of beef to the a la carte menu’, he says. ‘Each month I buy a rib from a different area and all the team taste it for taste, texture. It will be a French supplier, there is no question of looking elsewhere.’
Running the team is something he is clearly good at. There are 12 in the kitchen and the average age is 25 years. As sous-chef under Elzer, it was a challenge stepping up to the front line. Would he retain the much coverted Michelin star? Yes was the answer. ‘It is a dream, of course, to gain a second star’ he says, ‘but that is not the main objective. Most important for me and my team is to give our guests the best possible experience and to be proud of that - another star would be our reward, the cherry on the top of the cake.’
There are two restaurants in the Abbey de la Bussière. The a la carte is served in the vaulted hall, a befitting ambience for fine food. The bistro is also a fine room although less imposing. In summer on the terrace looking onto the magnificent grounds with the fountain providing a refreshing air, quality and value for money can be had for 27 euros per person for lunch.
‘When I was growing up in Clermont Ferrand and told my parents that I wanted to be a chef, my father remarked that there are worse things you could do. He is now very proud of us, my brother is a pastry chef on the island of Reunion. He didn’t envisage all this.’ Emmanuel has been very lucky to get to this point at a young age and clearly has talent. ‘It’s not talent, he quickly responds, it’s passion’.