The will to succeed an 18th -century restaurant – Guy Martins talks of dreams, love, and respect

Le Grand Véfour
Guy Martin

Le Grand Véfour Guy Martin

Nothing has changed despite becoming an owner-chef

You became an owner of this dream restaurant in 2011.

Mr. Guy Martin:
Yes. This is my seventh year as an owner-chef.

Is there any difference between being a normal chef and an owner-chef?

Mr. Guy Martin:
Of course, that depends on who you ask, but in my case, it is not particularly different.
Even before I became an owner of this restaurant, I was managing it as if it were mine.

But if there is a difference, it’s that I am officially the person in charge. It is my responsibility to contact other companies with which we collaborate, as well as to keep this restaurant beautiful.

It’s a big responsibility. What was the toughest thing you faced after you became an owner?

Mr. Guy Martin:
The toughest thing, well… Actually there’s not much. The worst thing for me, at a historical restaurant like this, where many great people have visited, is when there is food poisoning.
It simply cannot happen. But other than that, everything else is trivial and not a big struggle.

I often go mountain climbing, and I have been close to death. Compared to that I can say it is not a big problem!

Le Grand Véfour Guy Martin

The strength of French food is that it is emphasized by the country and the people becoming one.

By the way, do you often visit Japan?

Mr. Guy Martin:
I do. It went for the hundredth time last year.

One hundred times!

Mr. Guy Martin:
Yes, one hundred times. My first visit was 35 years ago, and now many of my important friends are in Japan.

What do you think of Japanese food?

Mr. Guy Martin:
It is very interesting. There are many wonderful foods. But, its food culture is essentially different from French food.
The biggest feature of French food is that creation is always necessary. Of course, many traditions are also valued, but French food has been recreated and remains fluid.

Compared to that, Japanese food has a reputation for being “protected.”
Japanese food is wonderful. From the handling of the knife when cooking fish, to the choosing of ingredients according to the rhythm of seasons, there is not much culinary culture that is at this level of quality and sophistication. But, for better or worse, it has been unchanging. Of course, over the past 20 years it has been changing little by little, but basically it still is a protected tradition.

French food keeps on moving and Japanese food stays still. Those are the characteristics of these two wonderful culinary cultures.

Are there any other differences?

Mr. Guy Martin:
If I think from a different point of view, there is a big difference – the degree of involvement of the nation.

In France, the nation itself is strongly involved in the culinary culture. It is telling that we can learn the culinary arts at national schools. In Japan, there are private culinary schools but no national school. The country is not involved in the culture of cuisine. Isn’t that a surprising fact?

In the 1900s, people with the title of Gran Chef owned their own drivers, buildings, and other properties. Gran Chefs belonged to the same class as national governmental officials.

Compared to the past, are current Gran Chefs not as important?

Mr. Guy Martin:
Some of them, yes. Only some! But back when the culinary arts in particular were leading French culture, it was usual.

Le Grand Véfour Guy Martin

Respect and motivation: that’s all it takes.

What do you expect from staff who work at this restaurant?

Mr. Guy Martin:

Respect towards the customers?

Mr. Guy Martin:
Of course I expect respect towards customers. That’s obvious; what I expect is respect towards ingredients.

The reason is that respect towards ingredients is connected to a respect towards the people in the background.
There are people who endure hard work, digging out potatoes,
Ingredients contain the efforts of many people. You cannot be a chef without this respect.

When you hire, what do you look for in a person?

Mr. Guy Martin:
Whether there is a motivation or not. Sometimes chefs are from totally different backgrounds, such as from diners in the street or from hospital cafeterias, but the gap in skills and knowledge caused by these differences is not a big problem. It’s okay as long as they are motivated.

Also, whether there is a love towards good or beautiful things or not is important.
Love produces motivation.

Do many Japanese apply to this restaurant?

Mr. Guy Martin:
Not so man, compared to before, but there are a lot. The peak was about 25 years ago and it has decreased since. Now it seems to be increasing again, though.
It’s good to have Japanese chefs because they can inspire each other.

Le Grand Véfour Guy Martin

Keep dreaming, living the dream. The key is within myself.

Could you give a message to young chefs in Japan? There are many of them who aspire to be like you.

Mr. Guy Martin:
Reconfirm what your dream is. And keep dreaming and living in your dream.
Imagine the chef that you want to be in your head, and never stop dreaming of it.

Now we need Japanese Gran Chefs who create new food and develop culinary culture.
There is a need for Japanese chefs in hotels and restaurants, big and small.
Good luck.

A dream is what chefs need. Did you tell yourself the same thing when you were 19 or 20 years old?

Mr. Guy Martin:
No, I wasn’t thinking about becoming a chef back then!

But I think it is applicable to any job.

Thank you for your valuable time; I know you are very busy.

Mr. Guy Martin:
Not at all. I am no busier than any other person.
By the way, would you tell me about your dream?

(Interview, writer: Juro MAEDA Photographer: Yurina NIIHARA)

Le Grand Véfour interior

Le Grand Véfour interior

Le Grand Véfour

+33 (0)1 42 96 56 27
17 rue de beaujolais 75001 PARIS FRANCE
Saturday and Sunday