Masterchef S03 ep7 : Lionel Rigolet, Comme Chez Soi Restaurant, [Brussels]

Interview with Lionel Rigolet

It all began in 1926 when Georges Cuvelier, a brave inhabitant of the southern Belgian Borinage region escaped the coal mines to open a small restaurant in Brussels. A regular customer told him each visit : "Georges, in your restaurant we eat like at home." It did not take long for him to come up with the name "Comme chez Soi". When the restaurant moved to its present location on Place Rouppe, Georges Cuvelier's daughter married Louis Wynants, a pork-butcher from the Flemish town of Tienen. Louis Wynants took the quality of the kitchen to higher levels. Their son was Pierre Wynants. He studied at famous restaurants throughout Europe and met Marie-Thérèse. From this union came two daughters, Laurence and Véronique. Laurence, the eldest, has married Lionel Rigolet, a young culinary talent who rapidly became a key element for the thouse. The couple now has little Jessica and Loïc, a fifth generation..."


The restaurant "Comme Chez Soi" has existed since 1926 . It is a family business and I am the 4th
generation chef.

It' s the father of my wife Pierre Wynants that got the third Michelin Star and he kept it for 27
years. It was the oldest 3 Michelin stars restaurant outside of France.

The restaurant used to be called Chez Georges, but the patrons always said it is just like at home.
So Georges changed the name to Comme chez soi, like at home. The decor of the restaurant is an
homage to Victor Horta, the Belgian art nouveau architect. My step parents did this renovation in
1985 and we just renovated the kitchen three years ago to modern standards.

My great grandfather had a really classic cuisine line brassiere style. My grandfather had the first
Michelin star in ’53 with my grandmother and then in ’66 my grandfather and my father together
had the second one, my grandfather died in ’73 and my parents had the third one in ’79 until three
years ago.

(So you were three star and now you’re two star)

Yes, it’s a different generation and that the kitchen of my husband is not the same kitchen of my
father. We always have the traditional dishes on the menu also but I think we have to prove that we
can also do it.

Jewellery Theatre Carravaggio

We tried to do at our school but it didn’t work because it was more outside of school than in school
but and so my grandfather decide for my father it would be easier if he was in other restaurants so
he directly went to Paris to London, a little bit in Brussels also and I think it’s always the best way
to learn your job is to work in other restaurants.

I went for 10 months to Girardet in Switzerland, then to Robuchon, then to Haeberlin at the
Auberge de l'ill and I went to Lenotre to learn about Patisserie.… Each Chef has his own style,
Girardet invents dishes on the spot, spontaneous cuisine, Robuchon is all about a calculated
precision, Lenotre of course is all about desserts, Haeberlin it is more about traditional home
cooking, a bit more classic, but always very much caring about the produce.

I like to work the produce with spices, it adds a lot, I love the scent of spices! We like to work
with the new cooking techniques, the foams, the jellies, the extractions and we care a lot about the
presentation of the plates.

I think the most important is to be with the … because it’s a very big evolution in the kitchen and
you have to take all the interesting you can have in that cuisine but our cuisine is not the sign of a
Bulli but we can take some ideas and certainly not forget the taste of everything, that’s very

Between the kitchen of my father and the kitchen of my husband there is really a big evolution in
the presentation. Before when it was classic cuisine somebody like beaucoups or … or all these
people there was not really a big difference between one and the other one only the taste but in the
plate it was not really important. Now, instead to have two or three different things in your plate
you have really more.

Jewellery Theatre Carravaggio

We respect the seasons. We change menu 6 times a year, we work with seasonal produce. We are
going to change the menu on Thursday and have wild duck and partridge, and venison with
feathers or fur: pheasant, hare and deer. And in January we will have black truffles. We always
change the menu with the seasons and we always use seasonal produce.

We always have a number of suppliers and when they offer new produce we always try it out and it
is better than the produce we normally buy, we change supplier. Every morning all the produce
that is delivered is controlled and sent back if it is not up to our standards. And we make a lobster
dish, we will use lobster carcass for our lobster stock to get the real taste of lobster for the sauce.
We want to extract the essence of the produce.

When a condiment supplier offers a new product we will try out and if we find it interesting we
will use it and if we don't find it interesting we forget about it. We made jellies with soya sauce,
we use wasabi, we use youssou we work with a lot of asian products but before anything we want
to work with produce from Belgium.

The restaurants we prefer are the kitchens who are a little bit like our kitchen at Bulli you have to
do it one time in your life and it was super but we are different because also our guests are feeling
a difference.

Jewellery Theatre Elements

At El Bulli, we were amazed, it is different approach to cooking it is about sensations, it is an

I try to make dishes that are beautiful to look at but were the produce is not lost, it must not be too
complicated. The guest must not just taste the curry, taste the wasabi, the taste has to respect the
natural taste of the produce.

Every recipe is unique we are not going to take a recipe of another restaurant and have the same so
all the creations are unique when you have it on your menu in January and then after also in March
it will must be the same but it’s unique so is it art or not, I think it’s more a personal judgment that
the guests can have.

Sometimes we have people who never went to a … restaurant so there are some companies who
organise some gift if you buy you know and then they arrive here, we have that feeling and the
people are very happy but they were happy with the gift also, you, it is not because you don’t have
the money to come that you don’t like it, old … is a little bit like a dream for, we have to be that,
the people like it when they have a birthday when they have a great event something to do, we are
there for that people.

Jewellery Theatre Fairytales

I remember when Leonardo Di Caprio came, we just had a reservation under the name of Di
Caprio and so we were waiting there at the clients came and I saw all the names and I was joking,
oh Leonardo is coming this evening and two or three seconds later he was just before me because I
didn’t want it was him so he eat here, it was really simple, there was no tra, la, la and

The most difficult artist who came that was Prince, he is really vegetarian and we didn’t know it
before so it’s when you know it before and our group it’s no, not a problem but when they arriving
with a big table and they all want to have something different it’s not easy when you don’t have it
on the menu.

OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Lionel Rigolet, Comme Chez Soi Restaurant, [Brussels]