In 2019, restaurant Berceau des Sens in Lausanne, Switzerland, won a Michelin star – the first for an educational restaurant, École hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), in the world.
Chef Cédric Bourassin, who has obtained a 3-star Michelin rating for the restaurant Michel Bras TOYA in Hokkaido, Japan, moved to Switzerland to take over the position of Chef de Cuisine in 2016. With such a brilliant achievement in Japan, where could he possibly go next? “I am here to transmit my knowledge, techniques and capabilities in the kitchen and fine dining experience spanning over 20 years to my students in EHL. Our goal was not to gain a Michelin star, but to train future managers”, he shared about the philosophy of Berceau des Sens. With his professional experience and excellent leadership, the students in EHL are motivated to maintain the ultimate quality of a Michelin restaurant.
“For me, being quiet in the kitchen is very important. I've learned this from Japan. Unlike many restaurants in France, we don’t raise our voices and we let everybody stay focused. I think everybody should concentrate on what they have to do. It has a better result”, says Cédric. Cédric’s 5 years in Japan have inspired him a lot in terms of the way to manage a restaurant and the creation of the menu.
The Inspiring Uniqueness of Japanese culture
“When I was in Japan, I travelled a lot. I have been to cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, Kyushu and more. I tried many restaurants in different cities and brainstormed ideas to apply Japanese elements to French cuisine. I try to implement interesting Japanese ingredients, for example soy sauce and yuzu, to my menu. And they are absolutely amazing! In European culture, we don’t have a habit of using yuzu in cuisine. So when I put a bit of a Japanese touch in my cuisine here, people really like it. I also have a special dish which is a combination of foie gras and shiitake dashi. This is very delicate for customers in Switzerland and my guests do really like it.”
Cédric tried to apply the same philosophy practised at Michel Bras. “We were using 80% of local ingredients including crops grown in our own garden in Hokkaido. Here, we procure fresh vegetables and poultry directly from Switzerland. But for fish, there are only lake fish in Switzerland, so we supply fish ourselves from the French coast.” Under this practice, the customers could enjoy the cuisine at the freshest and best quality, and it helps local environmental sustainability too.
Art, culture and food are always aligned. “The food in Japan is a part of its culture. I have learnt a lot of things - not only cooking. I really like the culture of humility in Japan. Japanese are hard-working and they never compare themselves to friends. I was impressed that Japanese are willing to spend a lot of money on food, especially French food. They do respect and love French cuisine”.
Not Only a Chef but also a great Mentor
It’s all the more impressive for Cédric to win the Michelin star here considering the actual circumstances in an educational restaurant. His passion for nurturing young talents has afforded him a professional team.
“This is probably a place with the worst turnover rate in the world”, Cédric describes. Cédric faces new challenge every lunch and dinner as he needs to lead a new team, and at the same time to ensure the team is meeting the same high standards. To strive for excellence, teamwork is important for the group. “We are very well organized in the kitchen and this is the key point. Every staff knows what to do in the kitchen, from the starter to the dessert, and no plates are leaving the kitchen without being checked by myself. I try to master all the dishes before the waiters take the plate and bring them to the customer. Personally, I do 80% of the menu and I let my staff do 20% of it. With stability, we are able to perform with different students daily. I have a very professional team and the team is very important to me.”
It is comforting to hear a chef wholeheartedly supporting new talents. “We have a team of about 10 to 12 students for service. They are plating 80% of the plates and we try to make them making up the garnishes as much as possible. It is important to bring them into the kitchen and make them work. What I am asking them to do is to stay focused during the service, and to be quiet in the kitchen. The most important thing is to get them involved as much as possible. Then the students feel they have an important role to play in the restaurant, and thus perform better and feel more confident.”
Seeing the success of Berceau de Sens, particularly its dedication to cultivating new hotelier talents, it’s not difficult to feel upbeat about the future of the hospitality industry. As Cédric puts it succinctly: “our priority is the students”.