Clement Bouvier (Ursus): in the bear's skin
When Clement Bouvier says hello to you, you feel like a child shaking hands with a giant. He has named his restaurant Ursus, Latin for bear, and has 'planted' 380 trees to transport his guests into the heart of a forest. Let’s take a guided tour…
A question of identity
Clément Bouvier's great-grandmother, a well-known cook in Chambéry, started a family tradition of culinary excellence. This was taken up by her grandson, Jean-Michel, who was at the helm of L'Essentiel for 16 years, where he obtained his first Michelin star after learning with Michel Guérard. He married Catherine Marin, whose brother Pierre had a Michelin star for over 30 years at the Lamartine restaurant in Le Bourget au Lac. Marinaded in this family tradition, Jean-Michel's son Clément could have taken over from his father. But one experience affected him like a slap in the face: an internship in New York at "Eighty One", on the street of the same number. In the city of nameless streets where the whole world meets, he realised the dizzying difficulty of building his own identity. "If you look at the cuisine in the regions, the restaurants often offer the same thing. I understood the importance of detaching oneself from one's training to create one's own identity.” He refined his art with René and Maxime Meilleur at La Bouitte, then with Jean-François Piège, and created his restaurant "Ursus" in November 2017 with one main objective: "My customers must live new experiences here".
"If you look at the cuisine in the regions, the restaurants often offer the same thing. I realised the importance of breaking away from learning and creating your own identity. "
The Ursus experience
During one of my very first interviews with great chefs, Ferran Adrià of the restaurant "El Bulli" declared: "Innovation is very easy, you just have to not copy". Since this interview in 2008, Clément Bouvier has focused strongly on innovation, creating high expectations for anyone going to Ursus. As soon as you enter, you leave a street in Tignes Val Claret and enter a forest of 380 trees. A large moss-covered table serves as a meeting point with the chef, who offers you a taste of mushroom in all its states. It’s a good start. The two surprise menus respect seasonality to the letter - "If it's on the menu, it's because we were able to get it this morning" - and pay tribute to all the suppliers and team members. And the walk begins: from the amuse-bouche - a tartiflette in the form of a small cabbage - to the final marshmallow bear, the chef and his team demonstrate the creativity of artists who have fully mastered their craft. The fish from the lake is covered with scales of various textures that Bocuse would not have disowned. Bouvier’s grandfather's soup ennobles the humble potato. The pigeon is combined with blackberries, the trout with sorrel and its own eggs. The wines of the region and of the cellar make for a perfect match. The chef's cheese is like an ice cream. Get your strength back with the "trou Savoyard" as it heralds a dizzying cascade of desserts, infusions and chartreuse. One leaves Ursus surprised and charmed by the character of this totally committed team. The chef manages to exceed the modest expectations of ski tourists for whom a raclette or fondue is often the highlight. And even in the starred category, he makes his intentions clear:to quickly reach greater heights.
A well-polished business model
Climate change can easily play tricks on a resort like Tignes, summer or winter. "Nobody can predict the weather here, like in Brittany!" says the chef with a laugh, standing alongside Luc Dabo, his restaurant manager from the west of France. The Bouvier family manages its risks at the helm of several establishments: "Les Suites" - a 5* hotel offering 24 suites - a spa, a grocery shop, Jeanne's table, and the "Panoramic", a restaurant at an altitude of 3032m. As with the Bouviers, the quest for excellence remains omnipresent: the "Panoramic" has held the title of the highest starred table in the world since 2021. This place combines three spaces, from the take-away to the gastronomic restaurant, to meet all the expectations of visitors to this dazzling terrace overlooking the Alps.