Born and raised in the picturesque village of Lumio on the French island of Corsica, Christophe Bacquié was destined for a career in the service industry. His mother, who owned Hôtel Bellevue, persuaded Christophe to follow in her footsteps and attend the L’Île-Rousse School of Hospitality. But he soon discovered that food service wasn’t his passion; instead, the culinary arts piqued his interest, and he packed his bags for Paris, kicking off his career at some of the city’s top dining venues.
“I began my career at Le Méridien Montparnasse in Paris, but I really earned my stripes at L’Oasis with Louis Outhier and Stéphane Raimbault. I’ve also worked at Amphyclès with Philippe Groult, the Sofitel in La Défense, and I moonlighted at the Plaza during my military service before joining the Maison Prunier team in Paris under Gabriel Biscay.”
In 1997, the chef returned home to Corsica, taking up a position at La Villa Relais & Châteaux hotel in Calvi. He was promoted to Head Chef in 2000, and two years later, the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star. In 2007, the second star came — and with it, Bacquié made history, as this was the first time a restaurant in Corsica had achieved a two-star ranking.
Although Corsica is his birthplace, the island also holds other special sentiments for the chef, from the historic Michelin recognition to where he met one of his heroes, Pierre Gagnaire. A true culinary heavyweight, Pierre’s advice laid the foundations for Christophe’s culinary philosophy: sometimes, the key is just to use produce in its simplest expression.
In line with this, Bacquié utilises only the best, locally sourced ingredients at his eponymous three-Michelin-starred restaurant within the Hôtel du Castellet. Located in the beautiful Var region of Provence, it celebrates the Mediterranean through perfectly executed fare. No set menus, no superfluous techniques and no over-dramatic presentation — it’s cuisine of the highest calibre made from the heart and served according to the diner’s desire. The flavours are delicate, and the native terroir is everpresent.
Seafood, in particular, is integral to the menu, as are citrus fruits, one of the chef’s favourite ingredients, as they enhance a dish with just a dash of acidity. Guided by the seasons and the ocean’s resources, Christophe’s creations are carefully conceived yet always in continuous evolution.
“I don’t create dishes every day; I’m inspired by the season and the desire to work with a particular kind of produce. It then becomes a team effort with my chef and sous chefs. A dish is constructed gradually and is rarely set in stone; it changes over time and with the passing years.
“Our unique menu follows the seasons. It is mainly made up of fish, but you can also find some iconic dishes like squab au sang, cooked in a spiced and salted pastry crust with tangy wild myrtle vinegar jus. And cheese lovers simply must visit the cheese cellar, where you’ll find over eighty varieties of cheese to make up your own cheese board.
“Most of our produce is sourced from producers located under 100 kilometres from the restaurant. I firmly believe in using local produce and the quality achieved as a result.”
Another dish that stands out on the menu is the aioli moderne. A quintessential Provençal dish served at special family occasions, it’s been transformed into a more modern interpretation by Christophe and his team. Still staying true to the soul of the dish, it features a garlic-doused aioli accented by locally caught octopus and seasonal vegetables from the Beausset Market gardeners. A taste and visual masterpiece in equal measures, it delivers a festive feel to his diners, just as the chef intends to do with each of his dishes.
“I think that the experience in our restaurant is a success when our guests remember one or two dishes, how the discovery of a flavour made them feel, or quite simply if they visited our restaurant for an important family event. The celebration must be a success.”
It’s not only the food that fosters this celebratory feeling, though. The restaurant’s setting has been designed to create an ambience that ensues continued delight, down to the last detail. Set on the edge of a fragrant pine forest, with expansive doors and a terrace beckoning in views of the sparkling Mediterranean Sea beyond, it’s an ode to the region’s beauty and the chef’s respect for it. Through everything Christophe does, he aims to evoke the flavours of the soils, chasms and sea depths surrounding him so guests can savour Provence’s nature with their eyes, minds and palates.
“An experience is a collection of things that must be unique and must, above all, reflect the chef ’s personality. So the restaurant has been designed to incorporate a multitude of details, like Martin Berger’s canvas depicting the depths of the Mediterranean, in which the very simple, bare table is gradually filled over the course of the meal, culminating in a table full of sweet treats that marks the end of the experience.”
With numerous awards trailing the chef’s name, it can be said with certainty that he does live up to his aim of presenting a one-of-a-kind dining experience. Back in 2008, he was lauded with the Relais Gourmand Trophy and named Grand Chef Relais & Châteaux. Six years later, he received the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France, and in 2018, Le Chef awarded him Chef of the Year. Gault&Millau then also honoured him as Chef of the Year 2019, in addition to presenting his restaurant with 19/20 points and a five-toque rating. The cherry on top is a three Michelin-star ranking from the Michelin Guide, held since 2018, which cements his restaurant at Hôtel du Castellet as one of the best dining establishments in Provence and the world.
Looking back over the last two decades and all he’s achieved, we couldn’t help but ask Bacquié what he believes is the recipe behind his success? “Effort, humility, teamwork and a high level of commitment combined with conviction. Being yourself and not trying to imitate someone else. You can’t achieve much alone: I’m surrounded by so many invaluable men and women. I share this success with them, as well as with our guests. The greatest sign of respect is being there to greet them.”
It’s the distribution of knowledge and the human element of his work that Bacquié enjoys most about running a kitchen. He’s also particularly fond of mentoring young people and seeing them learn and outdo themselves. In Christophe’s eyes, cooking is a passion that should be shared with the entire brigade. So alongside his deputy chef Fabien Ferré and his pastry chef Loïc Colliau, the trio takes great pleasure in not only creating new dishes but also in training young apprentices. Like a big family, they have daily exchanges and make decisions together, and sharing his experience with everyone is a great honour for Bacquié.
Working in a team is something that he revels in outside of the kitchen, too. As an avid road cyclist, he mirrors his cooking philosophies with the sport. “It’s a sport that requires a lot of discipline and training, and you also get to meet some wonderful people. But once you’re on your bike, pedalling away, we are all on the same team striving to reach the finish.”
Another craft that shares Christophe’s values is horology, and in particular, the work of Richard Mille. The chef is a brand ambassador for the renowned Swiss watchmaker, and this partnership is one that’s rooted in mutual respect and a united outlook.
“Richard and I are quite a pair. We’re two men with a shared vision of life. Gastronomy and fine watchmaking have many similarities: precise techniques, apparent simplicity, and an elegant product. We don’t need to talk for long to understand what we can expect from one another, and our ambitions will lead us to achieve great things centred around the pleasure of sharing.”
Both Richard and Christophe are leaders in their fields, guided by a commitment to delivering only the highest quality products to their customers. Underpinned by a keen eye for aesthetics that accentuates purpose, paired with meticulous research and development, their creations are made by hand with the greatest attention to detail and unmatched skill. They are, indeed, an indomitable duo brought together by two of life’s most beautiful artistries.
To find out more about Christophe Bacquié and La Table du Castellet, contact the restaurant using the below details: