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Chez Bruno: Like Father, Like Sons

At the end of an alley in a little village in Provence named Lorgues sits a flower of French gastronomy: Chez Bruno. This world-renowned restaurant has been specializing in truffles for 35 years. Its success is due to its founder, Clément Bruno, and now he is leaving to his sons, Benjamin and Samuel, the task of carrying on the tradition.

 

“This location originally belonged to my grandmother Mariette. I poured all my heart and energy into it,” explained Clément Bruno. The “Pope of Truffles”, as they call him, comes from peasant roots and has spent his life making this famous mushroom more accessible. Faithful to his values and his roots, he has always insisted on serving a menu of exceptional quality, yet accessible to all. In 35 years, the restaurant has built its reputation on classics like brouillade à la truffe, truffe en feuilleté and pomme de terre aux truffes cuite en robe des champs. He has served not only local residents and tourists but actors (Brad Pitt, Al Pacino), politicians (Bill Clinton, Pierre Eliott Trudeau) and crowned heads. All have succumbed to the black diamond.

Cooking: An act of love

How do you explain this much success? It must be Clément Bruno’s hard work, talent and personality, for everyone who knows him calls him an exceptional, generous visionary. He himself would rather talk about “loving the product and wanting to share it with others”. For instance, he remembers how his mother used to prepare tomatoes à la provençale, simmering them for hours until they were properly stewed. “Good cooking requires time, and respect for the products you’re working with,” he said in his musical accent.

 

Good cooking requires times, ans respect for the products you’re working with.

 

Clément Bruno has always preferred old-time cooking to the passing trends. It’s simple, but it makes any dish sublime. Now that he’s passed the torch to his sons Benjamin and Samuel, his dearest wish is that they carry on the tradition by continuing to prepare the classic dishes that have made his restaurant into a true institution.

 

A new generation

Clément Bruno has nothing to worry about on that count. When you look at his sons’ talent and professionalism it’s obvious that the restaurant is in good hands. He knows it, too, because the family is very tight-knit and both boys have been relying on their father’s advice and experience for years.

 

Benjamin, the chef, started working with him at 14, before leaving to prove himself in a number of other restaurants, including famous chef Alain Ducasse’s Plaza Athénée and the Blue Bay in Monaco. Then he created his own establishment in Nice. He’s been back in Lorgues for four years and took over enthusiastically. He loves the old recipes as much as his father does, and has brought his own touch of creativity and refinement while respecting the soul of the house. Some dishes, like truffe en feuilleté, have been revisited. The young chef has also added lots of vegetables to the menu and had fun creating new truffle desserts. Samuel has been the maître d’ for ten years. The two brothers form a solid team and the clientele quickly adopted them.

 

Don’t think for a moment that Clément Bruno’s retirement is going to be restful. Not only is he often at the restaurant (“I like being here”, he said with a grin), he is preparing a book on truffles that should be out next year. Now that he has the time to travel, he’s been visiting Saint Petersburg in Russia. Not all his trips there have been for pleasure, either, and he confided to us that he is getting ready to open a restaurant there. The light of Bruno’s savoir-faire is definitely not going to be extinguished any time soon, and that’s all for the best.

 

For more information

Chez Bruno
2350 des Arcs Route
83510 Lorgues, France

 

www.restaurantbruno.com

 

 

Texte : Diane Stehle

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