Philippe Chevrier (Chateauvieux): an entrepreneur with taste
As a chef with 2 Michelin stars and the owner of several restaurants in Geneva and the surrounding area, Philippe Chevrier is constantly on the go. However, he found the time to talk to us about his career, his passions and his interactions with his clients. Learn more about him.
Can you present your career in brief ?
After training as a chef, I trained as a pastry chef, a chocolatier and a baker, because I wanted my training to be truly comprehensive. Before working at renowned restaurants, I spent time working in small and simple restaurants, including The Patio, which I have since bought. I was the sous-chef there, part of a small team. I arrived there at 26 with a real sense of daring. I've always loved the place, its potential and the view. I've learned a lot from each of my experiences and the chefs I've worked with have always been excellent teachers, just as I'm trying to be now with my teams. The idea of passing skills on to others is really important to me. Understanding how to retain your employees helps to create an energy which benefits everyone. The magic of this profession lies in the opportunities to learn from a young 20-year-old chef.
"The best dish in the world will not taste as it should when accompanied by poor service.”
You’re very inspired by Louis Outhier, a chef with 3 Michelin stars who’s been nicknamed the “forgotten aesthete”.
He will always represent the magic of the first 3-star restaurant I worked in when I was twenty. Of course, he was somewhat overshadowed by Michel Guérin, Paul Bocuse and Troisgros, but he embodied the level I'm looking for: exceptional products, precision and attention to detail. Since his era, chefs have been more in the spotlight than their restaurants. In addition, the clients who visited Louis Outhier’s restaurant on the Côte d'Azur included many famous figures. I’ve been left with excellent memories and a feeling of great responsibility. It was while I was working there that I discovered deliciously sun-drenched Mediterranean cuisine, a cuisine featuring herbs, along with spices from Thailand, for tasty, fragrant dishes.
What about Freddy Girardet, another of your influences?
He invented spontaneous cooking: with three products, he came up with extraordinary recipes. He was a genuine machine in terms of creation, producing constantly changing cuisine. He taught me to question myself and the importance of making the best use of each product to transform every dish into an experience.
How would you define your cuisine?
We showcase exceptional products. However, the emotional experience for diners begins with a warm welcome: service can be more important than the food, in this context. Every detail counts. The best dish in the world will not taste as it should when accompanied by poor service.
You’re not just a chef, you’re also a real businessman.
I prefer the term entrepreneur, because I don't necessarily think about the return on investment. I’m bold enough to take the risk. I love creating a concept, a team, focused on a shared passion. Of course, you have to know how to cook, but to succeed, you must surround yourself with strong people and know how to motivate them and how to delegate. In a football team, a good goalkeeper doesn’t have the same qualities as a midfielder, but both are indispensable to the team. The leader must never position himself above his or her employees: his or her place is at the heart of the team, bringing everyone together. In 2016, I created Chez Philippe in Geneva: a 1,000m2 restaurant, which welcomes between 450 and 600 people a day. What makes it unique is the fact that the money for this restaurant was raised by means of crowdfunding by my friends and my suppliers. They were obliged to engage in this initiative to gain access to contracts: everyone has privileges, but everyone has duties too. That’s what I like: being inventive in the kitchen and in business.
You’ll celebrate your 60th birthday in 2020. What are your goals ?
In June, I'm going to open a new restaurant in Geneva with an original concept: the entire menu will only use 2 products.
You’re a marathon runner. Does that help you in your daily life ?
I have run the New York marathon 5 times since 1983. Marathons encourage discipline, because you have to be consistent during training to get there. I love the city of New York: I always come back with lots of energy and a twinge of sadness – I’d like to bring everything back here with me.