The First Day I Got My Michelin Stars: Christophe Bacquié

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

Restaurant Christophe Bacquié received much buzz by being one of two restaurants to be anointed with the highly-coveted three stars for the first time in the MICHELIN Guide France 2018.

Housed in Hotel du Castellet in France's picturesque Var region, Christophe Bacquié’s eponymous restaurant is famous for its Mediterranean-influenced dishes that shine the spotlight on seasonal produce and seafood over the past nine years.

Bacquié, a renowned seafood chef, is best known for his signatures such as John Dory, crab and caviar served in a perfumed cream of kaffir lime; raw and cooked langoustine with coral's head juice; asparagus from Roques-Hautes and Mediterranean octopus with local vegetables.
On the restaurant’s three-star rating, the MICHELIN Guide inspectors say: “Great cuisine is feted in an intimate atmosphere here. Under chef Christophe Bacquié, this restaurant is definitely worth going out of your way for (it is not far from Le Castellet’'s race track). Ingredients are chosen with passion, fine work on textures and flavors, all complemented by a sleek dining area that overlooks the Mediterranean garden. A delight!”

At 45, Bacquié is clearly at the peak of his long-running career as he joins the sacred circle
of chefs that helm three-Michelin-starred restaurants in France. This year, 28 restaurants in France received three stars.

Bacquié kick-started his hospitality career by learning about restaurant service when he attended a hotel management school in his hometown of Corsica. However, he felt more suited for the fast pace and rigor of the kitchen and started training as a chef. With a tinge of sadness, he packed his bags for Paris and went on to work at acclaimed restaurants such as Le Méridien Montparnasse Paris and The Sofitel at La Defense. Later at Maison Prunier, he honed his now-renowned craft of cooking with caviar from Aquitaine as well as fish and seafood under the tutelage of chef Gabriel Biscay.

What’s his secret to preparing his favorite fish of red mullet or John Dory? He says: “I like to cook them as simply as possible—grilled a la plancha, adapting the cooking time carefully to different fish.”

In 1997, he returned to his hometown of Corsica and helmed La Villa in Calvia. During his 12-year tenure, the hotel’s restaurant received its first Michelin star in 2002 and its second five years later.

The haute French cuisine chef says candidly: “I had two dreams—winning the Best Craftsman of France (aka, the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France) award and two Michelin stars. At 35, I had already achieved both.”

He continues: “I read a quote once that said, ‘Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.’ So if I stop now, I have no more dreams and goals in the kitchen, and I can’t progress any further.”

The lush exteriors of Restaurant Christophe Bacquié.
The lush exteriors of Restaurant Christophe Bacquié.

In 2009, he pursed a new challenge by starting Restaurant Christophe Bacquié in the Hotel du Castellet in Provence that is managed by his wife, Alexandra.

Portraying one’s emotions through food has long been a cornerstone of Bacquié’s cuisine. He shares: “You have to try to go far with emotion—by sharing, [by] meeting people. I was lucky enough to meet some great chefs who taught me everything that they knew, but also opened up their hearts to me. As such, with the maturity that I gained I was able to develop my own awareness and pass it along.”

“‘Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.’ So if I stop now, I have no more dreams and goals in the kitchen, and I can’t progress any further.”

Asked about what drives him in this competitive industry, and he says that it is fueled by passion. He shares: “Every day, I ask myself how to make our dishes better than they were the day before. I can’t let myself think that a dish is finished. The philosophy behind my recipes? Keep a good foundation and remember what is essential.”

Modern Aioli! featuring local vegetables and Mediterranean octopus.
Modern Aioli! featuring local vegetables and Mediterranean octopus.

What was your first encounter with the MICHELIN Guide?

It was in 2000 when I was working for La Villa in Calvi. A MICHELIN Guide inspector visited the restaurant and I have a very fond memories of this visit as it was a good opportunity to explain the real soul of my cuisine. These encounters are a little stressful but the result is always positive.

How was it like when the restaurant La Villa received its first Michelin star in 2002?

It was a memorable moment of happiness! I was glad to be a part of this adventure. I just wanted to share this achievement with my teams and loved ones. It marked the beginning of the philosophy of my cuisine. I do not see this as a victory but more as a recognition of my work.

Restaurant Christophe Bacquié received three Michelin stars this year. As a chef, what does having three Michelin stars mean to you?

Before receiving three Michelin stars, there was still the episode of receiving two stars! That was an important milestone then as La Villa was the first restaurant that received two stars in Corsica in 2007.

I built upon what I have achieved when I started a new adventure with the Hôtel & Spa du Castellet in Provence in 2009. One year later, Restaurant Christophe Bacquié received two stars. Getting a three-star rating is akin to a consecration as it is a very important recognition. It represents many years of hard work with my teams and affirms the personality and DNA of my cuisine.

How will having three Michelin stars change the direction of your restaurant?

We now have a strong clientele of regulars. The three-star rating attracts new customers who are exclusively interested in dining at three-starred restaurants. After we reopened for the new season this year, some customers came from as far as San Francisco to experience my cuisine.

What do you plan to do next for the restaurant?

Stay on course and focus on my work. The next step is to maintain this level of quality, and create and communicate true emotions through my dishes.

RELATED: Click here to read more First Day I Got My Stars articles 

Photos by Anne-Emmanuelle Thion.

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