Christian Le Squer | Breton Boy

08 Jan 2017
4 min read
Coastal flavours bring Brittany to life at three-Michelin-star chef Christian Le Squer’s Le Cinq restaurant in Paris, writes Kerry Spencer for FOUR International Magazine.

Christian Le Squer is a chef at the very top of his game. Highly regarded among the world’s culinary elite, he’s the executive chef of Paris’ famous Le Cinq at Four Seasons Hotel George V, arguably one of the best restaurants in Paris, if not the world.

Le Squer was awarded his third star at Le Cinq in February 2016, but the chef is no stranger to the Michelin Guides and this isn’t the first time he’s notched three stars.

Le Squer’s journey began roughly 500 miles outside of Paris, in Brittany. He almost carved out a life at sea, having been recruited by his uncle to work as a sailor. His sea-faring days were short-lived, however, and he soon changed paths and enrolled to train as a chef.

Following his training, Le Squer worked in the Paris kitchens of The Ritz, Le Divellec, Lucas Carton and Taillevent, before joining Café de la Paix Restaurant Opera as head chef. It was here that he received his first Michelin star in 1996, followed two years later with his second star.

Le Squer then took over from Ghislaine Arabian at the Pavillon Ledoyen (now overseen by Yannick Alléno) on the Champs-Élysées. In 2002, three years after taking over Pavillon Ledoyen, Le Squer was awarded three stars.

Later, in the late 2000s, Le Squer opened his own restaurants Etc (Epicure Traditionnelle Cuisine) and La Grande Verrière, while continuing to run the kitchen of Pavillon Ledoyen.

Le Squer joined Le Cinq following the departure of its former chef, Éric Briffard in October 2014, tasked with reinstating the restaurant’s third star, which had been lost with the departure of Philippe Legendre in 2008. Le Squer didn’t hold back, setting about achieving his mission.

While Le Squer has spent all of his adult life in Paris, his inner Breton boy never left, with Brittany oozing from the menu. “I am Breton so I would have a predilection for seafood,” he admits.

Brittany is well known for its exceptional shellfish and seafood—oyster, crab and Blue lobster, among many other types—and market-quality vegetables. Le Squer goes to great lengths to transport the flavours of Brittany to his Parisian palace and in the process he surprises and delights his guests in equal doses.

This inspiration, from the iodine scent of the sea to the many shades of shells washed ashore, is a theme of Le Cinq’s menu. One dish, the shellfish spider crab served in its shell, for example, is “refreshed” with a creamy coral emulsion, while the line-caught sea bass is served with a deliciously creamy caviar and Le Squer’s “fermented milk from my childhood”.

Le Cinq doesn’t only serve seafood, though. Le Squer’s love of market vegetables is always present on the menu. One of his most popular dishes is a reinterpretation of the traditional French onion soup. The dish, Gratinated Onion, features a light “onion ball” filled with a warm broth-style liquid, with hints of truffle and thyme and crispy shards of parmesan—described by as “the most ingenious dish of the meal”. His love of the earthy truffle is also present in his asparagus dish, which is paired with a Château-Chalon wine mousseline—both dishes exemplify Le Squer’s philosophy to the core, which sees tradition meet the future of gastronomy. While it would be a shame not to opt for a vegetable-based or shellfish dish at Le Cinq, the meat section lives up to the rest, too (Ham and mushroom truffle spaghetti or Crispy veal sweetbreads, anyone?).

A crunchy grapefruit dessert, featuring preserved and raw piece of the fruit, delicately finished in a layered millefeuille-style, lends a refreshing finish. Deconstructed and reinterpreted dishes are plentiful and complex kitchen techniques create a theatrical finish in many of the dishes.

The simplicity of his dishes are, well, far from simple. They are eloquent and powerful. Playful and clever, telling the story of the sea, land and market. “It’s necessary to be in a movement and I always question myself in order to ensure that my dishes coordinate with the place, where they’re cooked and with the economy surrounding,” says the chef.

The menu is aligned with the market and “enrolled in modernity”. Le Squer explains: “It is all about bringing tradition in modernity; we keep the technique and we create modern flavours. As with perfumery or haute couture, it’s important to create culinary flavours.

“In my cuisine and my kitchen we have a sauce-maker, fish merchant, pastry cook, maître d’hôtel [and] sommeliers, and my responsibility is to make them work in harmony together.”

Asked if there was one particular award that really stood out from his past achievements, Le Squer says: “Each moment is different; happiness is always immense, [especially when] keeping the [Michelin] stars for 20 years.”

He continues: “In my mind, I have always been a three-star chef, because the work I have provided since the first day in the cuisines of the Four Seasons Hotel George V was intense, I have always felt I am in the three-star category.”

Back in February, when he learnt of the third star at Le Cinq, it was a moment of great relief for Le Squer. He says: “To be recognised by guides or magazines is always a beautiful reward for the work involved by all the team… To be awarded by the best guides is to be part of the elite, so it is always enjoyable to be renowned.”

Le Cinq and its culinary team represent the finest French cuisine, a fact Le Squer is only too aware of. “You have visitors from all around the world who have decided to come to Paris… they have chosen a gastronomical experience. You permanently have to be the ambassador of your cuisine.”

While his cuisine is contemporary, embedded in the roots of old France, the restaurant itself is classical, old-school, providing the perfect complement to Le Squer’s cuisine.

“The French cuisine of the future will always keep local traditions—rich of a huge patrimony,” he finishes.

Find out more about Christian Le Squer