At the age of 23, the young French Chef Jean-Baptiste Lavergne-Morazzani was awarded his first Michelin star at la Table du 11 in Versailles, France, after only 11 months of opening. Three years later, we find him in his new “gastro” space in the prettily paved courtyard of la Cour des Senteurs (“Court of Scents”), also in Versailles, where he has more space, more comfort. “You have to give yourself the means to achieve your objectives,” says Lavergne-Morazzani. The Michelin star gave wings to this young prodigy who is also the head of the cellar, Bistrot du 11, to be followed by a 1000-square-meter vegetable garden not far away.
We were able to interview Lavergne-Morazzani while he created a dish of Cod, Butternut Squash and Black Garlic Rouille (click here for the recipe).
YOU ARE VERY YOUNG (27 YEARS OLD). HOW DO YOU MANAGE ALL OF YOUR PROJECTS?
IThis is a great adventure for me, to have earned a star at 23. In addition, the satisfaction of having opened a restaurant with my father. I have a great team: my sous-chef has been with us since the beginning, and Gabriel Gras, my deputy chef, is now in charge of the bistro. I realize that things are happening very fast, but our heads are to the grindstone and perhaps I haven’t really taken it all in. It’s the looks and words of my customers that send me back to this speed.
AND YOU STILL HAVE WORK IN PROGRESS?
Yes, after the star, we opened the bistro and today we still have many projects that really excite me where the products are perfectly consistent with our cuisine and state of mind. In a few weeks, we’ll open “la Cave” right by “la Table du 11” and soon an organic and permaculture vegetable garden at Saint-Nom-la-Bretèche in the Yvelines. As long as everything is under control, I’m fine. I don’t want to go too fast either. Now, I’m looking to sit back on the business side, make them run well, evolve and see my teams grow with me.
IS YOUR BUSINESS PRIMARILY A FATHER-AND-SON DUO?
My father had a family restaurant in the region and then needed a change. I’m the one who sought him out, as we’ve always gotten on well. He’s open minded enough not to block me with my projects, to let me make my own choices, but he supports them with me. We are quite a pair! I am someone who is keen because I’m still young; he is wiser because of his age. In three and a half years, we’ve done a lot of things and I’m delighted. There is nothing better than working with your family when things go well. My father brings me a lot of serenity. Today, I could not see myself working without him. As well, we divide the tasks: he looks after the administrative side while I like to be out in the field, changing menus and focusing on other things.
ARE YOU SEEKING A SECOND STAR?
Yes! I was already very happy with the first. I had conditioned myself to work for three to four years before obtaining it, but the star arrived at the end of 11 months and we moved. Now, it will certainly take a little time before obtaining the second star, but that’s normal. For the moment, though, we are just trying to do our job properly without putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves.
WHAT WERE THE MAIN CONSTRAINTS WHEN MOVING THE GASTRONOMIC RESTAURANT?
The timing! We had to quickly sell the first site on rue Saint Honoré because I needed the funds to buy the property at la Cours des Senteurs. And, at the same time, we had to start work on it. Once the financial aspect was managed, it was necessary to take care of the staff who had not worked for a month and a half. And when things go on for too long, there’s no income, but there is a lot going out! I was also at the site most of the time. It’s a lot of work, but it makes you grow.
WHAT ROLE SHOULD SUPPLIERS PLAY, IN YOUR OPINION?
I have always been surrounded by the right people at the openings. I need to have a privileged exchange with my suppliers. I can’t stand being a number and not having direct contact. I want there to be family-type contact; otherwise I am unable to function. I don’t hesitate to call important people in a company to report a problem. I need to feel surrounded, supported for a new project or an opening…it’s encouraging and it proves someone believes in you! Matfer Bourgeat has always followed me. Madame Mora, with whom I have always gotten along, has helped us a lot. And she knows our work because she regularly comes to the restaurant with her colleagues, for example. There is really a wonderful exchange between Matfer Bourgeat and us, and I want it to continue this way!
HOW DID MATFER BOURGEAT GET INVOLVED WHEN YOU SET UP THE BISTRO AND THE NEW GASTRO LOCATION?
Matfer Bourgeat was in contact with our architects and supported us on the entire custom stainless steel part, preparation, organization and structure of the kitchen. They have really got a professional eye. Of course, we are used to it as we use the kitchen every day. But, there are things we do not think about or do not even know about technically. To have multiplied the number of participants in this kind of project would have been a mistake, so I wanted to make sure that we worked together on the bistro and gastro. And as I was happy with the relationship I had created with Matfer; I didn’t see any reason to change.
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN YOU FIRST “MET” THE BRAND?
The first contact took place at a fair when I was still at Ferrandi. I have known Matfer since I started cooking, especially in the Michelin-starred restaurants that I admire — Trianon Palace, le Meurice, Cobéa — so I automatically associate the brand with excellence. It’s a brand that’s well established, qualitative, and very professional, and I have chosen to work with Matfer since then.