At his Le Pont de Brent restaurant north of Montreux, Stéphane Décotterd, a Michelin-starred Swiss chef, makes local ingredients a way of life, with a philosophy of fine cuisine that now shuns luxury products from abroad.
Stéphane Décotterd, 43, has been successfully managing Le Pont de Brent restaurant with his wife, Stéphanie, since January 2011. This establishment in Brent, Switzerland, on the northern edge of Montreux, has earned an 18/20 in Gault & Millau and two stars in the Michelin Guide. The chef, Vice Delegate of Relais & Châteaux Switzerland and Liechtenstein, has known the value of regional ingredients since he was a tot, with a butcher for a father and an enormous vegetable garden next to his parents’ house in Billens, in the canton of Friborg. This early awareness led Chef Décotterd to adopt a radically different philosophy: In the spring of 2018, he decided to entirely banish foreign luxury products from the restaurant’s kitchens.
It all started with a decisive moment in the South of France. “A few years ago, I went down there on a family vacation. We ate in a bistro that only served fish caught in the Mediterranean, right next door. There, sitting on that terrace, with the sea as far as the eye could see, I had an epiphany. I thought, This is exactly why I’m here – for this atmosphere, these local specialties. I didn’t want to see Swiss cheese on that menu.” Shortly thereafter, he hosted a group from Nice at his restaurant. “We served them red mullet with olives and they gave us plenty of compliments on it. I was delighted, of course, but the whole situation was still ludicrous somehow: These people had driven for six or seven hours to eat foods from their own hometown. It just didn't make sense to me anymore,” the chef explains.
In keeping with this love for local cuisine, the chef shines a spotlight on his region’s culinary traditions and ingredients, an approach that dovetails perfectly with the values and vision held by Relais & Châteaux. Which is why, when an establishment joins, there are 20 commitments to respect regarding sustainable cuisine and protection of culinary heritage. Members must, for example, support responsible fishing, fight against food waste, and collaborate with small producers. So Stéphane Décotterd reworked his entire plan, spent three years with his team preparing for the transition to local-only, and forged a network of producers and farmers. The first step was to remove tropical fruits from his desserts.
Guests enthusiastically embraced this philosophy from the start. “This shift was immediately hailed by foreign customers, who travel a great deal and are used to gourmet restaurants. Nobody asked me where the pineapple went.” Nowadays, coffee is one of the few exceptions the chef allows to the all-local rule. “Along with chocolate, which has long been a Swiss tradition.” And olive oil, which comes from a small producer in Saint-Rémy-de- Provence.
Every Tuesday, Chef Décotterd makes the rounds of the markets and producers. One of his stops is Serge Guidoux’s fishery in Ouchy, where he sources his fish from the lake. In his eyes, truly local spirit means, first and foremost, working directly with the producers. “What I want is farming on a reasonable scale and product traceability, with complete transparency. It makes the relationship with a producer all the more precious and, to me, more human.”