The last time we saw you, you were closing the doors on Brasserie Chavot. How was that?
The way we finished there was like a book. It was a beautiful book. On the 31st at 11.45, we cleaned everything, we tidied everything, and we closed the door. I drove over Putney Bridge at 11.55pm, and the fireworks were starting over Westminster. I woke up in the morning and it was all gone. We had a fantastic last few weeks.
What have you been doing in the meantime?
Consultancy, and bits and pieces on the side. I started something with the Coda restaurant at the Royal Albert Hall, which opens the 1 October, I thought “do I really want to go back full time?”. I was living in Epsom, and was thinking that perhaps there is life after London. Then I got a call from a consultancy, went down there and I thought ‘two days a month’, done.
How did you end up in your new role at Bob Bob Cite?
I was about to drive to France with my family for a holiday. My wife’s in the car, the dog’s in the car, I’m in the car. I looked at my phone and there was an email from Leonid (Shutov, owner of Bob Bob Ricard). All I could remember about the place was the button to push for champagne. On my return, I went for a quick cup of coffee with Leonid, which ended up lasting five hours. He told me about his project, so I went to see the Bob Bob Ricard, which was brilliant, with fantastic service. Leonid questioned me about the food, and I was honest - I thought we could do something. He kept calling to ask if I had made my decision. I told him about the work I was doing at the RAH, that I had principles that I would see it through, and he told me how he started Bob Bob, how long it took to get it there, and how it wasn’t all rosy for him. It just clicked. I went away, thought about it, we went back and forth, and then shook hands.
Are you excited to make your London comeback?
Over the last few years I’ve realised what I want to do and what I don’t want to do. I’ve enjoyed working since I was 14 years old, but my wife and son put things into perspective. I went away, did other things, spent a lot of time in my garden, and got a dog for Christmas. I always wanted a dog but never had the time. Now, I make time. Bob Bob as a brand is very successful, and this one is going to be very successful. I’m not worried about how busy we will be, all we have to do now is put the thing together. I can see myself in it already. We’re back! The men in black!
I’ve worked on projects that have gone nowhere. When you’re 28 you can afford to waste your time. When you’re 50 you don’t want to waste time. It’s not because your number is about to come, you just need to get on with things.
What will you be doing until opening day?
I’ve got a routine. I’m up at 5.45am, I brush my teeth, wash my face, and am on my motorbike at 6am, at work for 7. I spend the day developing different things. I go to Bob Bob and look through every single menu item with the chefs. There’s no point in transforming the menu, but I show them my way, and challenge them to match it. It’s not about me, it’s about them. I’m teaching as well. I’m getting the kids from college - I got in touch with David Duverger at Le Cordon Bleu, and I asked if he could send me his third years. If you’ve got the knowledge you have to pass it on - there’s no point in keeping it to yourself. I don’t have time to write books because I explain everything too intricately. I want them to physically see it.
What’s the menu going to be like?
We will have some Chavot classics, but not completely. The idea at Bob Bob is that there is a little hint of Russian, which I love, because vodka and caviar are fantastic, but there will also be a hint of the French from me. We will have beautiful dumplings with garlic snails. They will be in an onion and garlic broth, which will be so light that the gentlemen will still be able to kiss their girlfriends. We will make of course add the classic French cuisine, so there will be daube de boeuf provencale, blanquette de veau, crème brulee and three private rooms with a separate menu. The menu is finalised, but I will leave the rest as a surprise.
Will your famous shorts be making a comeback?
I will have trousers this time, I’m afraid. I actually chose the colour today for the kitchen staff, from a company called Chaud Devant. They’ve got beautiful pale grey chef jackets and hats with dark grey aprons. Leonid wants them to have white shoes because if the shoes are not clean the food is not clean. I’ve got a lovely long grey apron and some nice little trousers to cover those beautiful French legs. The last few times it was so hot I was wearing shorts, but there’s a time and a place. I’m 50, so I had to say “enough! Mr Chavot!”
Will there be a press for champagne button?
I know the answer to this one. We’re going to have a big, big, beautiful, button for the champagne. Definitely.