Georges: I was born in Bourg-en-Bresse on 2 January 1943. After secondary school, I went to the hotel management school in Thonon-les-Bains. In 1962, I graduated top of the class that year. In 1965, after completing my military service and a period of training as a chef in a number of fine restaurants, I joined the family restaurant and worked alongside my mother. I took over from her in 1968 aged 25.
My family, who live in Vonnas, have been innkeepers since 1872. Three generations of mothers were cooks before me and had demonstrated their talents in the kitchen of a restaurant starred since 1929.
In the 70s I carried out some major changes to the family inn to turn it into a prestigious Relais & Châteaux, with suites and a spa.
I am passionate about cooking, and have inherited a repertoire of traditional cuisine going back a hundred years. My approach is to innovate by infusing classical dishes with a touch of personality. I was a finalist in the Competition for ‘Best Worker of France (MOF)’ in 1976 in Paris, and have held three stars since 1981. Today, my cuisine is one of tradition reinvented and reflective creativity based on high quality seasonal produce.
Frédéric: After training at the hotel management school of Tain l’Hermitage in the Drome, I honed my skills in a variety of restaurants in France and abroad, with Jean Pierre Billoux in Digoin, Marc Meneau in St Père sous Vézelay, Michel Guérard in Eugénie les Bains, Raymond Blanc in London. I was also, during my military service, cook at the Elysée Palace.
All these formative experiences have allowed me to return to the family restaurant where I learnt the trade at the Ancienne Auberge for 5 years before returning to the gourmet restaurant.
My cuisine: to humbly serve the Bresse and the guests at my restaurant with meticulous attention to detail.
What was your most moving culinary experience?
Georges: Winning the third star at Vonnas after the first in 1929 and the second in 1931. 80 unbroken years with stars, a remarkable and unique feat.
Frédéric: When my grandmother, Paulette Blanc, used to make me potatoes sautéed in butter on Sundays. She was very important to me and gave me a love for fine things.
The most amusing kitchen incident you ever witnessed?
Georges: When one of my guests, sampling a side dish of finely sliced white asparagus, told me: ‘At last, I have rediscovered the wonderful flavour of turnips from my childhood...’.
Frédéric: A few years ago when I had made a veal jus, I asked a commis to pass me the jus and to throw out the bones. When he had finished, I saw with amazement that he had thrown out the jus and kept the bones.
Your best piece of advice for amateur chefs?
Georges: At the market always go for the best and freshest produce. Take care to prepare it simply. Quality does not need sophisticated recipes, but rather care and attention in the preparation if you are using your own recipes, and particularly attention to cooking times...
Frédéric: You must try and avoid being too complicated and using recipes where there are too many ingredients. Go for fresh produce with a maximum of two or three side dishes, with a light but flavourful sauce and take care that there is the right balance between salt, pepper and acidity.