Five minutes with Paris star chef Jean-François Piège

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Five minutes with Paris star chef Jean-François Piège

blog_piege_01.jpgJean-François Piège, 39, the chef at Paris’ hottest new restaurant, Thoumieux, grew up in France’s Rhône region, where he was mostly interested in growing vegetables. But while in his 20s he began working alongside mega chef Alain Ducasse and eventually went on to earn two Michelin stars for himself, at the Crillon Hotel’s Les Ambassadeurs. In November, he surprised French food snobs by teaming up with trendy restaurateur Thierry Costes to revamp an art deco brasserie in the 7th arrondissement. Thoumieux’s success has even brought a new term to Parisian food lexicon: “brasstronomie,” short for top-quality gastronomique food served in brasserie environment.

Why did you leave the Crillon hotel?
I won’t go into this, but let’s say that some of the propositions there, like the opening of l’Obé restaurant [last year] weren’t accomplished. Luxury was hit by the economic crisis. Maybe it was time for me to think about offering something different.

What do you think of your new neighborhood?
It’s like a little village here. Everyone knows everything about everyone. And it’s a little far from my house—I live in the 9th.

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What makes this new project so special?
I don’t think anyone else does what we do here. For 50 euros, customers benefit from a real savoir faire and the best products.

In addition to the restaurant, you’re also opening a 17-room hotel at the new location, designed by India Mahdavi, plus another small restaurant with its own kitchen.
We want to create a hotel you can’t find anymore. Very charming and affordable. I don’t think that very charming hotels in a 200 or 250 euros price range exist in Paris any longer.

How did you feel the day you opened Thoumieu?
Scared. I had doubts.

Where was your best meal lately?
At the Sa.Qua.Na, [Alexandre Bourdas’ restaurant] in Honfleur.

Are you concerned about the new Michelin ratings coming out in February?
I’ve been told so many times I was getting my third star [at the Crillon] that I’m not going to worry about it. The Michelin is a business anyway.

Exterior photo: Benjamin Loyseau

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