Guillaume Foucault explains how he arrived at Le Grand Chaume
As a child, Guillaume Foucault didn’t dream of becoming a chef. It was nature that attracted him. But one deep midwinter, when he was in his final year of lower secondary education and a choice finally had to be made, he opted for the heat of the kitchen rather than the cold of the garden. He took up his first position as a chef at the age of 27. In his eyes, the cuisine he has developed since those early days is simply an extension of the world he loves, the terroir that he gives expression to on the plate. Imbued with the exigency and rigour learnt alongside Alain Senderens at Lucas Carton and Pascal Barbot, whose second-in-command he was at Astrance, Guillaume Foucault draws on an inventiveness focusing on products “in their natural state”. In 2013, along with his wife Quy Phi, he opened The Pertica in Vendôme, which was awarded a star in the Michelin Guide in 2017. Three years later, his commitment to sustainable gastronomy earned him another star, a green one this time. The future seemed set. But the spirit of adventure that reigns at the Domain of Chaumont-sur-Loire won the couple over and when they were offered Le Grand Chaume, they simply couldn’t resist. He will be in the kitchen and she in the dining room. As Guillaume Foucault likes to say, “A restaurant isn’t just the chef”.
What decided you to leave The Pertica and launch Le Grand Chaume?
We hadn’t thought of leaving our restaurant. Le Pertica has a star and is reputation is now established. Last year, Michelin’s director came and spent a couple of days with us, attracted by our involvement with the local territory. The Green Star inspires others. It highlights chefs who think beyond the dishes they create and involve themselves in ecoresponsible development. We were thinking about taking Le Pertica further along that path when Chantal Colleu-Dumond’s proposal came. The opportunity was simply too good to miss out on. We must have thought it over twenty times, but it was impossible not to take up the challenge of Le Grand Chaume.
Did you know the Domain of Chaumont-sur-Loire at the time?
Yes, it’s one of the places in the Region that stimulates me the most. Our family comes to the International Garden Festival in June every year, and then again in October to see how the creations are evolving. Art is essential. It’s what enables us to break free of our fetters. We also knew the hotel’s manager Pascal Garnier, and we shared the same culinary philosophy and way of thinking. Even though it’s by no means easy to leave a restaurant you’ve created, we believe that the spirit we developed at Le Pertica is very similar to Le Grand Chaume’s. So we’re simply going to relocate our knowhow in the kitchen and dining room and uphold the ideas promoted by the Domain of Chaumont-sur-Loire. The adventure is also in the building itself. I’m a big fan of architecture and I think Le Grand Chaume is a really powerful, audacious piece of work. We made it our own at once. Life’s too short not to take up challenges.
What sort of cuisine will you be serving at Le Grand Chaume?
A cuisine with a great deal of “naturalness”, with a pretty direct approach to the products involved. I like the idea of a gradual yet essential calling into question of what you can and can’t eat, going against what we think we know. One example that springs to mind is foie gras au naturel with onions in brine, which can be seasoned with pepper. Some people might be put off by the idea, but when they combine the three, they all find it amazing. It’s one of my signature dishes. The general idea is to try to operate on the products as little as possible and get our guest to participate. We also attach great importance to food and wine matches. It’s a working basis learnt at the Lucas Carton and that we’ve developed considerably with Quy Phi. We’re always on the lookout for amazing matches. Choosing the right wine raises a dish from excellent to outstanding. We draw a great deal of inspiration from the art world. Art removes your blinkers and that really does wonders. Which is why we think we’re going to be in our element here.