La maison Charbonnel is very honored to share with you this beautiful article written by Sud Ouest.
He's found his feet. Sébastien Riou was recruited last winter to spice up and modernize the kitchen at Brantôme's historic hotel-restaurant.
The graft has taken. Sébastien Riou, former chef of Un parfum de gourmandise in Périgueux, has just completed his first summer season at the helm of the Charbonnel kitchen in Brantôme-en-Périgord (Dordogne). Recruited over the winter to replace the former chef of this Dronne-side institution at short notice , the 38-year-old prodigy found the energy he needed to bounce back after the liquidation and closure, in 2022, of his own restaurant, with which he won a Michelin star in January 2019. "Although I still don't have my own business, I console myself by telling myself that I have the chance to do what I love most in the world, which is to cook beautiful dishes," admits Sébastien Riou.
Surprise on the plate
Modest by nature, the toque blanche initially tried to fit into the mold by adapting the signature menus devised by the Charbonnel brothers. But her creativity and insatiable taste for innovation gradually took over. Little by little, I let my inner nature speak for itself," confesses Sébastien Riou. I started with sauces before moving on to dishes and formulas."
A sign of how far he's come, since spring the chef has been offering his customers the chance to sample a complete menu without knowing what they're going to be served. "People find out exactly what they've eaten once the meal is over," says Sébastien Riou, pleased to note that the approach is as entertaining as it is instructive. "When the tasting ends, many are surprised to learn that there were so many different ingredients on their plate," smiles the chef.
A young, close-knit team
To continue surprising his customers, Sébastien Riou renews his menu every six to eight weeks. After a beet tartlet with goat's cheese mousse, haddock served with lemon mashed potatoes and crème brûlée, his Paimpol beans caused a sensation. "I follow seasonal produce", says the chef, who has a whole team of young talents in his wake, ready to shake up the institution.
Sébastien Riou isn't afraid to give his crew a free hand
"All three of us are very attached to fresh, local produce, but sometimes we have different opinions on other things. It's from this confrontation of ideas that the most daring recipes are born," continues Sébastien Riou, who isn't afraid to give his team-mates carte blanche. "Louis created an Asian menu that we served on September 29 as part of an Asian-themed evening," adds the chef.
The spirit is intact
At the entrance to the vast dining room, which stretches out towards the Dronne River, a collection of articles and black-and-white photos pinned to the wall celebrate the glorious past of the house built into an institution by the Charbonnel brothers in the second half of the 20th century. When we took over Charbonnel, we took over an institution and we intend to maintain it as such," says Samantha Beltrami, the hotel's new manager. But it's no offense to our predecessors to want to push the business to evolve in step with the times."
Bought in 2018 by Samantha's parents, Sylvie and Michael Beltrami, Charbonnel had already begun its aesthetic transformation. This is reflected in the decor, with contemporary seating and designer lampshades custom-made by Tricard in Le Bugue. All that remained was to change the content of the plates. Charbonnel is an address with a prestigious image, but perhaps a little dated," concedes Samantha Beltrami. In recruiting Sébastien Riou, we took the gamble of bringing a breath of modernity to our establishment.
Put in touch by a common supplier who knew the expectations of one and the desire to bounce back of the other, it didn't take long for the two young professionals to get on the same wavelength. Sébastien Riou and Samantha Beltrami, with their same go-getter temperament and free-spirited attitude, have over the last few months been nurturing the same ambition for Charbonnel: to win a Michelin star. "It would be great for Brantôme, which would then have two starred restaurants," hopes Sébastien Riou, confident in his lucky star.