In Crissier, the only constant is change: new head chef Franck Giovannini remains true to the principles of his predecessors at the world-famous “Restaurant L’Hôtel de Ville”, but is resolutely further developing the culinary signature.
Franck Giovannini is the epitome of calm, and the “Starship Crissier” appears to be floating through the universe without any turbulence. With its huge elliptical pass, the bright, spacious kitchen in which 25 chefs and pastry chefs work, actually does look a bit like an orbital glider, and the smooth and steady running of things is not something which should be taken for granted.
Much has stayed the same at the “Restaurant L’Hôtel de Ville” in Crissier: it remains a superb restaurant offering refined culinary delights which is unique in the world. Following its opening in 1971 by Fredy Girardet, one of the co-inventors of “Nouvelle Cuisine”, came three other head chefs or proprietors, each of whom received the highest award of three stars in the “Guide Michelin”. In his work, Franck Giovannini is fully aware of this tradition: “Our kitchen is actually still based on the philosophy of Fredy Girardet: the product is the star,” says the experienced chef.
Respect is of utmost importance for him, he adds: “We respect the products, the guests, and our employees.” That means not just cooking well for the guests, but for each individual. “We eat as you do in a good bistro; everything is home-made and today, for example, we did saltimbocca with polenta and carrots,” Giovannini recounts.
But this chef, born in 1974 in Tramelan in the Jura region, doesn’t just want to preserve the culinary heritage – he is determined to develop it further. The dishes need to be even lighter for example – less butter is the motto, which for somebody who feels indebted to French cuisine is somewhat surprising. “Flavour comes from reduction, and not in the first instance from adding butter or salt,” explains Giovannini. He says that he wants guests to feel they have enjoyed a light meal, even after nine or ten courses. But Giovannini also adds firmly: “We don’t do classic cuisine. For me, classic means you’ve been cooking the same dish for 30 years. Our dishes are continually evolving.”
Our visit falls in the spring, a time of year which vegetable-lover Giovannini particularly enjoys: “I love the bright colours and possibilities that using fresh vegetables offers.” In 2007, Giovannini won the “Bocuse de Bronze” award in the world’s most prestigious cooking competition. “One thing I learned there was to present as many facets of a product as possible,” he says. “Each of my dishes needs the right product, then it doesn’t need more than two or three different flavours. Different textures are important to me. For example, a dish is never just creamy. It needs something crispy or something crunchy – even just fresh vegetables for instance,” explains the head chef. In spring he uses morels or asparagus, then in early summer green beans, chanterelles or tomatoes for example, buying his products locally as far as possible.
Giovannini raves about dishes which consist of just one type of vegetable: morels, for example, or cardoons, for which the Romandie region is so famous, and which are grown exclusively for the “Restaurant L’Hôtel de Ville” by a farmer in Crissier. These meals must be “light and elegant”, and the guests’ sense of well-being should be enhanced by this new lightness.