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BARBICAN LIFE


Bruno Loubet Chef’s Corner


Clerkenwell’s Bistrot Bruno Loubet in the Zetter Hotel has outstanding food. Since opening in 2010 it has earned rave reviews. Stephanie Ross met Executive Chef Bruno Loubet to find out more about his recipe for success


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Bistrot Bruno Loubet at The Zetter


istrot Bruno Loubet’s huge east windows look out across a sunny St John’s Square to the red brick façade and leafy courtyard of St John’s church. From the north windows you see tables and chairs on the terrace, surrounded by a border of rectangular planters sporting colourful purple cabbages and grapes and a leafy patchworks of vines, courgette and aubergine plants. Bruno Loubet – Executive Chef and business partner at Bistrot Bruno Loubet - has always been a keen gardener. The dark wood bar displays a beautiful bouquet of purples - lisianthus, callicarpa berries, sage-like senecio - and pink phlox from Pod Flowers. This all gives a more natural atmosphere than usually found around St John’s Square. The room is open, airy and bright. The white painted brick walls, high ceiling and crisp table linen and a diverse clientele give a smart casual feel.


It is said that Bruno Loubet helped define London’s restaurant scene in the ‘90’s – first as Head Chef of London’s Four Season’s Inn on the Park – earning a Michelin star, then by running Soho’s Bistro Bruno, followed by Regent Street’s L’Odeon. He has the reputation for being


successful, a technical master, creative, incredibly hard working and tuned in to the business demands of his commercial collaborators.


Bruno was one of seven children raised in a small Bordeaux house on the edge of the city. They had a big allotment where they grew pretty much all of their own food, chickens included. His mother was a good cook and looked after the children. She was the stricter parent. As a child Bruno enjoyed fishing, picking mushrooms and working on the allotment with his dad who worked for the French highways and took a second job on a vineyard to provide money for life’s extras such as the traditional long French August holiday. They would rent a house in the Pyrenees. It was the main occasion that the family spent leisure time together and the only time that they ate out in restaurants.


As a little kid Bruno liked art and sold drawings based on Les Poulbots (Francesque Poulbot was a French war- time cartoonist) for a franc or two as well as small wooden carved boats. He was one of the naughty kids and didn’t take primary school too seriously.


At fourteen youngsters in France had to decide the path for secondary education. Bruno was given an ultimatum - choose an apprenticeship, apply himself to academic subjects or leave. The only really serious choice for him was chef school – Lycee Hotelier de Talence. He studied in class on weekdays and worked in a hotel at weekends. Bruno was very lucky - he’d found his direction early and a life-long career where he’d flourish. His career is well documented: eighteen months of naval military service - Head Chef cooking for the Admiral; joining Pierre Koffman at La Tante Claire in 1982 aged twenty-one; Head Chef at


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Gastronome One, Chelsea; winning Good Food Guide’s Young chef of the Year in ’85; working with Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Oxfordshire aged twenty-three – wife and newborn daughter to support; transfer in ‘86 to Le Petit Blanc, Oxford, as Chef Manager. He also did regular consultancy stints abroad so his three daughters are well travelled. In building up his reputation and expertise he worked relentlessly, often hundred hour weeks, seeing very little of his family, driven by his determination to be successful professionally and to provide for his supportive wife and three daughters. Over the 80’s and 90’s his obvious creativity (thinly slice turnips, steam with tarragon vinegar fill with mushroom so that it looks like ravioli and serve with turkey jus) often had to be restrained, allowing his traditional French background and training to take centre stage. Now the world is catching up. Creative cookery is more wide-spread – on TV and even now in supermarkets (mustard ice cream) by Chefs like Heston Blumenthal. So future projects may well see Bruno using more of his creative talents.


At one metre ninety and 100 kilos Bruno presents a powerful figure. In conversation he is engaging and thoughtful and his mind is an encyclopedia of recipes and ideas. Running a restaurant demands incredible physical and mental strength as well as strong leadership. Twice a day the pressure intensifies hugely, the kitchen can get insupportably hot and busy. There is a team of young people to train, teach, motivate and generally look after among an armoury of sharp knives! Many expectations need to be successfully managed: food critics, restaurant guide writers, customers, business investors.


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