Masterchef S04 ep5 : Jean-Denis Rieubland, Chantecler Restaurant, NEGRESCO Hotel, [Nice]
Interview with Jean-Denis Rieubland
It’s a fine birthday gift for the Negresco. Just as this quintessential palace of the Côte d’Azur is preparing to celebrate its one hundredth anniversary, the Michelin Guide has granted a second badge of honor to its restaurant, the Chantecler. While the Negresco had a makeover in 2010, the dining room and its attendant salon have kept their Regency style décor and their beautiful 18th century wood paneling. But a peaceful revolution has been simmering in the kitchen for the past five years, with Jean-Denis Rieubland, a young chef with an expressive talent, at the helm. Named “Meilleur ouvrier de France” in 2007, this native of Agen gained his early experience here in Nice, behind the pianos of the Eden Roc in particular. The pleasure of his return is combined with the challenge of achieving flawless quality in his art.
The Chantecleer is located in the Negresco Hotel, the mythical Negresco Hotel,
which is one of the most famous landmarks in Nice. The Chantecler which got its
second Michelin star this year, is one of the best restaurants on the French
Riviera, in the city of Nice so there you are, the Negresco and the Chantecler really
uphold that image. For me, it is an institution. When I was an apprentice chef,
twenty two years ago, I would cycle past the Negresco to get to where I was
working, so I took up the position as first chef at the Negresco with a sense of
great pride. More so after having been awarded a second star in this marvellous
restaurant. I feel very proud of myself and my team.
So before taking up the position as chef at the Negresco five years ago, I was first
chef in a hotel group where I also worked for five years, where the working
conditions were very strict, where there was a lot of American-style management
involved, and when I arrived here, the restaurant was managed in more a family-
run style, a large family-run company, so that was a real change for me. On the
other hand, the customers were dealt with differently and work was approached
differently too, well...there you are, and we are a French Institution, so it’s true
that it is managed in a French way by Madame Augier. The first year, when I just
arrived we ate at the Chantecler every night and tasted all the dishes on the menu,
to be familiar with all the dishes served at the Chantecler. She knows all the dishes
served at the Chanticler. If she doesn’t like them she makes it clear. I try to
present different variations, but it’s also true that she does have a fine palate and
regarding food she knows what she is talking about.
I make all the decisions regarding the menu , but that doesn’t change the fact that
she owns the place, so she has the right to taste the dishes and give her opinion. I
personally think it’s a good thing. It’s important for me for her to taste my cuisine
and tell me what she feels about it, what she really thinks. When she doesn’t like
something she always says what she thinks. So there you have it.
In fact, you don’t become a chef from one day to the next; it's through meeting
other chefs and the evolution of one’s career path. At some point in time, you feel
ready to take the plunge. Regarding my personal career path, at one point I had to
make choices: school, private life, professional life and I chose my job and went to
a training center, where hands-on demonstrations were given and namely
cookery . I really liked it so I enrolled in classes, I got my CAP credentials. After
that I worked a lot on the French Riviera, at the Eden Rock, the Carlton, Le Royal
Napoule. After that I went to Paris, because I think that going to Paris is a
mandatory step as far as cooking goes. So I went to Paris to the Tour d’Argent and
Lapérouse, to Lyon to La Via Florentine. Then I went back to The French Riviera, I
worked at the Miramar, I was at the Mas Candille’s opening and after at the
opening of the Four Seasons where I participated in the competition of the
‘Meilleur ouvrier de France’ best chefs of France in 2007.
I believe that the people you meet in your life are of the utmost importance.
Sharing ideas with other chefs you meet or work with, you are always learning
something from them. However, there really was one person who had an
influence on me, Mr Manuel Martinez, who was first chef at La Tour D’Argent for
10 years and who was elected best worker in 86. It’s true that when you arrive in
his kitchen, coming from the Cannes Carlton to Paris, I saw my first chef with the
red white and blue collar. He really taught me how to be thorough and the basics
of French cuisine.
My cooking is, I would say, Mediterranean-style. A lot of light fresh-tasting
ingredients. What I must do is bring out the taste of the products, there is not a
great number of products which are combined on the plate. My goal is that you
preserve and emphasize the original taste. Cooking times are also very important
and I do use the basics of traditional French cuisine, classical techniques with a
modern touch for the decoration and presentation on the plate.
Madame Auger agrees that it should be that sort of cuisine. Customers come to
the Negresco to eat French cuisine but with new taste sensations and especially I
think today, with a new presentation. How the food appears on the plate is really
important to people. Presentation is very important like a work of art; very
It’s all about the products used; that day, that month because...well today, the
seasons aren’t the same anymore. Previously, we proposed 5 menus a year in line
with the seasons but now due to global warming I would say we have to compose
menus with the products when they arrive, so that’s more or less how I work: so
when peas are in season we just cook peas or asparagus, after that well I try to use
what's available - fish, sea bass , turbot . I combine them with two or three
vegetables. After that, it a bit like ’what kind of mood I’m in ‘
Otherwise, I love walking in the mountains which I find inspiring and invigorating.
It liberates the spirit with the fragrances of nature.
There are two dishes which work really well since I have been here: roast crayfish
with Espelette chilli and rolled calf’s head croquettes, the second is veal
sweetbreads with chorizo, small caramelised onions and a coulis of Girolles
An anecdote? When our Russian customers come to eat at the Chantecler; they
always ask to receive two portions on the same plate.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: jean-Denis Rieubland, Chantecler Restaurant, NEGRESCO Hotel, [Nice]