René and Maxime Meilleur (La Bouitte***): Sincere Savoie
Since 1976 and the acquisition of a potato field in Saint-Marcel, René and his family have been relentlessly improving their art. A lifetime later, they are celebrating the seventh anniversary of their third Michelin star and welcome gastronomes from all over the world to their 5* Relais et Château hotel. A guided tour.
The good sense of a farmer
The story of La Bouitte begins with a roof to repair. René Meilleur and his father take care of it. In Savoie, mutual aid is one of the cardinal values. As payment, they received a potato field to allow René to realize his dream. In 1976 he opened a small restaurant that he named "La Bouitte," "the small house" in Savoyard patois. The success was not long in coming. Regulars but also crowned heads and Presidents of the Republic took the off-road route to the restaurant to taste raclettes, fondues, entrecotes, and sometimes a rib of beef or frogs’ legs. "We are blessed by the gods in the region! Meat, wine, fish, herbs. We even have water.” The guests leave for Les Ménuires by cab. Despite his self-taught approach, René's goal from the beginning was to become one of the best restaurants in the region. Each time he makes a profit of 2, he immediately invests 3 – in decoration, plates, wine cellar, staff, and extensions. La Bouitte never stops evolving by small touches. In 1981, he invited his wife to Bocuse's and she came back with new ideas. It was the beginning of a more difficult phase because, on the one hand, the customers were a little disoriented, and on the other hand, Saint-Martin is linked to the three valleys, taking away a little traffic from Saint-Marcel. René relies on the good farming sense of the region: He does not deviate, and over the years, things returned to order. "When a Savoyard cuts a tree, he doesn't stop until he's finished.” He incorporated local products into his new cuisine; the region became known for its gastronomy; the approach of the Winter Olympic Games put Savoie in the spotlight. The stars began to be aligned in the sky of La Bouitte.
"In Savoy, trust is earned over seasons and generations."
In the name of the father and the son
Self-taught like his father, Maxime joined him in 1996, after a short stint in the French junior biathlon team. Life goes on: Installation of snow cannons, the opening of an eight-room hotel, multiple encounters, small, stubborn progress. The benevolence of the customers guides each step of the team. Turnover and investments continue to increase. The first Michelin star arrived in 2003, "almost by chance." Faithful to their hard-working culture, René and Maxime did not change their incremental method and get carried away: "We knew how to ski fast, but badly." They opened a spa in 2005 and received their second award in 2008. They expanded the hotel and reached completion in 2015. Together, they earned the three stars, which they believe is unique. 2022 marks the arrival in the team of Oscar Meilleur, Maxime's son. The family method should not change, but he breaks the self-taught tradition by arriving with the experience of four, three-star restaurants.
"When a Savoyard cuts a tree, he doesn't stop until he's finished".
One day at La Bouitte
Staying with the Meilleur family is first and foremost an authentic gastronomic experience. Lake Geneva fish breaded with a crispy bread coating; duck foie gras pan-fried on a corn cake reduced with old vinegar; not forgetting the signature dessert: "Le lait dans tous ses états". Words fail to express the richness of the emotions felt. But La Bouitte also allows, with its spa and the surrounding nature, to take care of well-being. René Meilleur renovated the cross of the local church, and he devotes himself to pampering his guests. It's all about trust. In Savoie, it is earned over the seasons and generations. 80% of the customers are regulars. How can you not become attached to a family that invests their lives in this small area? Without giving up anything. In constant evolution. A Savoyard family with a heart.