The Weekender Interview: Eric Chavot

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Eric Chavot Bob Bob Cité
Born in France, Eric Chavot cooked under Raymond Blanc and Pierre Koffmann and went on to hold two Michelin stars at his eponymous restaurant at The Capital Hotel for a decade. He now oversees the kitchen at Soho restaurant Bob Bob Ricard and will soon launch Bob Bob Cité in the City of London.

What image do you currently have on your phone’s wallpaper?
It’s my wife, Christine, with Solo our working cocker-spaniel puppy. I’m just about to change it to include Han our five-month old rescue cocker-cross who has just arrived from Spain.

What was your first job?
Kitchen porter at L’Amphytrion, a small restaurant in Cazaux, Ariège, my home village. I was only 14 years old and I completed my apprenticeship there. As I signed my contract I remember my new boss saying “after two years with me you will either be a chef forever or quit forever”. Two years later I quit and I’ve only ever been a chef since.

Gordon or Marco?
Both. They’ve had such a significant impact on British cooking, here and internationally.

What was the last film you saw in the cinema?
It was probably Spectre! Having the crazy puppies, we tend to stay home and watch films via AppleTV.

What is your guiltiest food pleasure?
A crispy bacon sandwich with lashings of homemade ranch dressing between thick slices of fresh bread…and a tub of Haagen Dazs Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream (all to myself!)

Where are you going on your next holiday?
Pyla-sur-mer near Arcachon where I was born. We have a small but beautiful villa 80 metres from the beach near the Dune du Pyla. Miles of sandy beach, pine forest and big skies. I love it. 

What industry figure do you most admire (and why)?
Pierre Koffmann and Raymond Blanc. Their longevity is testament to the enormous contribution they have made to the industry. Chef Pierre has an unbelievable knowledge of all things food and cooking, and Raymond created and continues to develop the beautiful Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons. Whilst they have two very different styles, they share the same passion for food and as mentors they inspire you to become a better version of yourself. Then there’s Jamie (Oliver) for what he’s achieved on so many fronts. It’s incredible…the business empire, the charitable causes, the campaigns, and the beautiful family to boot (I’m not sure where he and Jules found the time or energy for so many gorgeous children).

If you weren’t in restaurants, what would you do?
Be a Super Vet. I’m in awe of Noel Fitzpatrick.

Biggest regret?
Not having a great work: life balance until recently. I still work crazy hours but now I know when to ‘let go’ and to spend more quality time with my family.

Pet hate?
Poor attitude and laziness.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
Asking for an order of ‘daube de boeuf’ cooked rare. 

Marmite: love it or hate it?
Hate it. Sorry Marmite fans. 

Describe your cooking style in three words
Full-of-flavour (hopefully that counts as one word), honest, homely.

What country do you next want to visit?
Japan

Most overrated food?
Cheese biscuits. I just don’t understand them, there’s so much beautiful bread available. 

Restaurant czar for a day – what would you implement?
100% of the Service Charge always being paid to the staff.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
AA Gill at Chavot Fulham Road.

What made you want to become a chef?
My mother and grandmother were my first inspirations. I have fantastic memories of growing up with their incredible French home-cooking.

What do you cook at home on your days off?
Cooking at home is minimum effort. I want to spend my time off walking the dogs with Christine, pottering around the garden, catching up with friends and generally unwinding from the kitchen. We use our slower-cooker almost constantly. Beef short ribs, neck of lamb and pork butt, minimum prep required, cooked gently for 6-8 hours and an incredibly tasty dinner is ready waiting. Now summer’s finally on the way I’m cooking more fish, again with minimum effort, simply baked in a foil pouch or on the barbecue.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
There's so much to pass on. But the most important is for people to understand that being a chef is not about just doing a job, it is a passion. You have to do it for the love of it. It will demand a lot of effort and dedication so make sure it is truly what you want to do. And don’t smoke! One of the most important assets a chef has is the palate, the senses of taste and smell. Smoking damages both.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
My ‘juice presso’... I drink a carrot, beetroot, Granny Smith & turmeric juice every day.

iPhone or Android?
Without a doubt, iPhone.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t be afraid/embarrassed to reach out for professional support when for whatever reasons life seems too tough. Often when you just change how you think about something it doesn’t seem so bad.

What’s your earliest memory?
The daily 10am glass of milk at prep school. I was three years old.

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
To wherever Christine and the dogs are.

Twitter or Instagram?
Instagram, it’s great for sharing photos and videos, particularly for chefs. There’s so many tweets I find Twitter deafening, it’s overwhelming!

Tipple of choice?
A G&T with plenty of ice. 

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
Ribeye of beef cooked medium-rare on a BBQ or Josper, served with béarnaise sauce, a (large) portion of Chavot triple-cooked fries and a good pinot noir.

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