(This feature was published in GMA News Online last October 26, 2013)
There are only a handful of restaurants that have been recognized by certain culinary standards–one of the most prestigious being the Michelin Guide, which has been around since the 1900s. Garnering recognition from this group of gastronomy gods would be the ultimate dream of any chef or restaurateur.
Though the Philippines hasn’t produced any restaurant or chef with that award, we are fortunate to have a chance to meet a Michelin-awarded chef, Chef Nicolas Isnard, who will be visiting from France.
“I’m born in the south of France but my grandfather and grandmother are Italian,” shared the chef, who is in his mid-30s.
The recipe for success
But the journey to being an award-winning chef was not a walk in the park, as he had to pursue formal culinary training in France and work his way as an apprentice from one restaurant to another.
All his hard work was not for naught though. At the age of 22, he became the Chef de Partie for Relais & Chateau in its one-star Michelin restaurant called Le Prieure.
A year after, he became the second chef at another one-star Michelin restaurant, Le Vieux Logis. The next year, he joined the two-star restaurant, La Rotonde, where he played the part of Chef de Partie for a 25-member team of Philippe Gauvreau.
Eventually, he transferred to Auberge du Vieux Puits, a three-star establishment where he was made the Head Chef. Here, he also he met his future wife, Cécile, and business partner, David le Comte. Before opening their own restaurant, the chef was able to experience working in Le Chateau de Curzay, the owner of which also opened an Italian restaurant in Switzerland and sometimes assigned him there. While alternating between the two kitchens, Isnard led the Italian restaurant to its first Michelin star.
He eventually opened his own establishment, Auberge de la Charme á Prenois–which specializes in French cuisine prepared with modern techniques–with partners Cécile Sagory, David le Comte and Jessica Jean. They received one Michelin star within a year’s time.
Isnard said he will never forget the day he got the call about the award. While in the car with one of his partners, they had to stop at the roadside as they heard the news, and cried joyful tears.
Since then, he has traveled around the globe as a culinary consultant to cities such as Beijing, Singapore, Dubai, Moscow, Abu Dhabi, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh, Casablanca, and Macau.
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