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People 2 minutes 16 January 2019

First Day I Got My Michelin Stars: Frédéric Vardon of Le39V In Paris and Hong Kong

We get the world's most celebrated chefs to recall what it was like when they got their very first Michelin stars.

First Day I Got My Stars Hong Kong French cuisine

Born in Normandy, France, to a family of butchers, Frédéric Vardon has always been driven by a deep love for the land and the honest toil of farm life. Serendipitously, the milestones of his career are marked by three Alains; upon graduating from culinary school, he got his start in the kitchens of chef Alain Dutournier, followed by the late Alain Chapel and, finally, Alain Ducasse, with whom he spent 14 years cooking in the group’s most prestigious restaurants around the world.
The main dining room of Le39V Paris, so named for its prime 39 Avenue George V address. (Photo courtesy of Le39V.)
The main dining room of Le39V Paris, so named for its prime 39 Avenue George V address. (Photo courtesy of Le39V.)
In 2010, Vardon opened Le39V Paris, so named for its prime 39 Avenue George V address in the heart of Paris’s upper-crust Golden Triangle (or, the 8th Arrondissement) neighborhood. There, he combines seasonal ingredients and French classical techniques with his own innovative approach to conjure up signature dishes like his famous Niçoisé-style red mullet, LE 39 V Paris-Brest; and Relieuse au chocolate. The restaurant was awarded its first Michelin star in 2012.
Frédéric Vardon en cuisine ©AngiaVaudron.png
When the opportunity arose for the intrepid globetrotter to open an outpost in Asia, he jumped at the chance. In 2017, Vardon launched Le39V Hong Kong in the West Kowloon District. Perched on the 101st floor of the International Commerce Center tower, the restaurant paid tribute to the Parisian flagship in terms of interior design and cuisine while affording a stunning view of the whole Victoria Harbor bay.

At the first anniversary of Le39V Hong Kong, we chatted with the chef and found out what he feels about his accomplishments thus far.
What was your first encounter with the MICHELIN Guide?
When I was younger, I went regularly to the restaurant Le Bistrot 121 in Paris. It was my first experience dining in a starred restaurant and I was fascinated by the sense of detail, the choice of products and the quality of the dishes. I was very impressed by the whole team who was always attentive and worked very hard to give you an extraordinary experience.
The main dining room of Le39V in Hong Kong's West Kowloon District. (Photo courtesy of Le39V.)
The main dining room of Le39V in Hong Kong's West Kowloon District. (Photo courtesy of Le39V.)
What was it like when your restaurant received a Michelin star for the first time?
I was not in Paris when I heard the news. It was indeed a very great surprise and a very emotional moment for me. I remember I had tears in my eyes when I heard the news. It was the recognition of the team’s work and a huge encouragement to all of us who had strived to make a high-quality cuisine. I have to honor my team because I couldn’t have obtained the star without them. They work very hard and they put their trust in me. I think I need to give them the star because it is they who made my Michelin dreams come true.
Le39V mixed fruit salad. (Photo courtesy of Le39V.)
Le39V mixed fruit salad. (Photo courtesy of Le39V.)
How did you celebrate?
I had a celebration with my family and then, of course, I celebrated again with my teammates with lots of Champagne, which is the tradition in France. Some of the customers and suppliers joined the celebration too because they loved my cuisine and had been very supportive.

How has the MICHELIN Guide impacted your career?

It makes me want to be a better and stronger person. I think it is very hard to achieve a star and to maintain the star is even harder. I take it as a daily challenge and a goal to always give the best I can to the customers. It is not easy to stay on top; you need to evolve and I remind myself about this every day.
Mallard, hen pheasant and wood pigeon in pastry. (Photo courtesy of Le39V.)
Mallard, hen pheasant and wood pigeon in pastry. (Photo courtesy of Le39V.)
What advice do you have for young chefs aiming for Michelin stars?
I think it is important to have the mindset that you are cooking not for yourself, but for others. They must know that, when their work conveys truth and sincerity, the guests will receive the message in their dishes. They also need to enjoy cooking because it is a job that brings happiness and joy to people. It is a responsibility to take care of the guests but in return you will gain a great sense of achievement. For me, my joy comes from seeing my teams both in Paris and Hong Kong moving towards the same direction and nothing makes me happier when I see them use their hearts to prepare dishes and pay attention to details when serving the guests.

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