Chez Bruno – Benjamin & Samuel Bruno
Here is another set of photos I've been revisiting while working on a current project, Chasing Stars: The Quest for Michelin Glory in France, in which we take readers behind the scenes in the kitchens of two dozen of the best chefs in France – those who have earned a prestigious Michelin star in the restaurant guide of the same name. (Comme d'habitude, I managed to sneak in a photo of my son – then aged thirteen – into this photo set!)
Deep in Provence a family legacy continues in a restaurant dedicated to truffles: a restaurant frequented by French celebrities, Hollywood stars, famous three-star chefs, the Prince of Monaco... and us! Born out of passion more than thirty years ago, and holding a Michelin star since 1999, the sons of the Emperor of Truffles now sit on the throne, but do they rule the kingdom?
35,000 annual customers, 4.5 tonnes of truffles, two sons working in the shadow of a dominant force: the 6-foot 4-inch, 350-pound patriarch, Chef Clement Bruno, who retired after thirty years, passing the reigns to his sons.
Benjamin is a classically trained chef who worked in Michelin star restaurants in Paris and at his own restaurant in Nice. He returned (somewhat reluctantly, we intuit) to the family firm when his father summoned. Now, as Chef du Cuisine, he creates the signature dishes: broiled egg in cream with truffle slices, red-capped Italian mushroom and summer truffles, truffled potatoes, and even truffle ice cream.
To our eyes, Benjamin seems exhausted. Can he maintain the classics his father developed but also lighten the cooking? There’s a lot of cream, olive oil, and red meat on the menu, but it’s a struggle for Benjamin to make changes.
“I want to maintain the classics but also lighten the cuisine. It’s not easy. It’s not my Michelin star, ” Benjamin sighs.
While Benjamin cooks, big brother Samuel, who trained at hospitality school in Bordeaux, runs the front of house. Although Bruno père has retired Samuel tells us, “He’s still the boss.”