Yves Camdeborde sells his restaurant, Le Comptoir du Relais, to chef Bruno Doucet

10:00 a.m., July 1, 2022

The Carrefour de l’Odéon in Paris can’t believe it. Instead of waiting for the 2024 Olympics, Yves Camdeborde signed the final sale of his legendary hotel Le Relais Saint-Germain and his restaurant, Le Comptoir du Relais next Thursday. If he keeps his three “Avant-Comptoirs” in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the chef will now be free to sail more often to Vaucluse, to open, at 57 (including forty-three in the kitchen!), a new chapter of his already beautiful life. If he rushed things, it’s because he found the ideal buyer, the one to whom we entrust, with a lighter heart, a business ” old “ of eighteen years with all that it contains of memories: from July 1, chef Bruno Doucet will take over the kitchens of Le Comptoir (70 covers), while his friend the hotelier Jean-Paul Besnard will take over the hotel from 22 rooms (which will be managed by his daughter).

Buddy stories always produce the least painful departures. “It’s a release for meadmits the native Béarnais. I could never have sold to someone I didn’t like! With them, I felt it was time: I leave my teams to normal, human people. And with Bruno, I leave serene: he already knows how to do it. » The two cooks, bon vivants and very close friends, are not at their first attempt: in 2004, it was already Bruno Doucet who had taken over the legendary Régalade (Paris 14th), opened in 1992 by Camdeborde and for where the brilliant and late food critic Sébastien Demorand coined the term “bistronomy”.

Read also – Sauces, cooked jars and sandwiches: these grocery stores run by great chefs

At the time, taking over a restaurant that embodied both a major culinary movement and a chef with a strong personality was cheeky. Or unconscious: “Everyone told me I was crazy, he laughs. Me, I liked Yves’ cooking and mine resembled him. » It was chef Jean-François Piège who brought them together one evening when Bruno was in low spirits. “He took me to Yves’, we dined and drank until 6 in the morning! remembers Bruno Doucet. It was the first time I tasted Rayas…” The people of Touraine are already tasting the porcini mushrooms with white pudding and caramelized apples, the huge welcome terrine or the squid ink risotto…

“No competition between us”

Around this table, the Tourangeo-Béarnaise friendship was sealed for good. “We have many things in commonlaunches Yves. Paris, rugby, conviviality, meetings, discussions, eating well, going on vacation together… The only two things that separate us are hunting, because I don’t like weapons, and cars, which I don’t care about. completely ! » The two comrades, separated by ten short years, also like to cook together “simple things”without unnecessary competition: “No competition between us!», says the youngest. And the eldest to clarify: “We are in mutual trust and humility at work: sometimes we are less good than others and we assume it without problem. »

I’m very happy to be the heir, I don’t wish it was someone else, but I’m freaking out even more than I did eighteen years ago.

Over time, their canaille, authentic and generous cuisine has adapted to the evolutions of the time: “The only novelty in twenty years is the arrival of plants and acidity in recipes, and that’s a good thing”says Camdeborde. “The liters of cream have disappeared, I still put a little in the rice pudding but that’s it”adds Bruno, who sold the Régalade du 14e for resuscitation rue Saint-Honoré (Paris 1er).

If Yves Camdeborde says he is serene in the face of this page that is turning, Bruno Doucet feels the pressure of this second succession: “I am very happy to be the heir, I would not have liked it to be someone else, he admits. But I freak out even more than eighteen years ago! When La Régalade took over, it was complicated with the staff, who were trained by Yves: for a year, I went to work with a lump in my stomach. » He therefore offered himself the services of a managerial coach, so that the transition would be smooth. In the kitchen, wisdom dictates not to shake up the menu: “Above all, nothing should be changed at the start. And then modify certain things, in homeopathic doses. But some of the dishes on the Comptoir menu are the same as at La Régalade! »​

“I leave the door wide open”

At the Relais Saint-Germain, emotion was high on Wednesday when the chef announced his departure to his teams. “It was hard, some were crying but I told them: “We’re just passing through! You have habits with me, in the kitchen and human, but you take others with him: that’s life! And I’m not slamming the door: my pride is in preparing the ground by accompanying Bruno so that everything goes well. » Hearing the news, François Hollande, a loyal customer, came to dinner this week for the last time.

Read also – The three-star chef Arnaud Donckele at the JDD: “The magic has succeeded”

Modest about his memories, Camdeborde prefers to look to the future, without worrying about what it will be like. “I leave the door wide open, I’m ready to listen to everything, watch everything: I think that’s always how good things happen. » Anyone who is aware that this time-consuming job has “messed up a first family and social life” wants to catch up with his second wife and granddaughter: “I will not make the same mistakes again. The confinement showed me that I was able to find my pleasure and a fullness without being in the excitement of the job. I don’t want to pull the rope and stay until I’m 75 in the kitchen. »

Hyperactive, the cook should quickly fill the void. Maybe with a village grocery store “drugstore type with bread, flowers, newspapers, food and drink, coffee and games”. But he asserts: “It’s not the end of Camdeborde, it’s above all the beginning of Doucet! The important thing is to show that this filiation exists, that this famous sharing, often overplayed in the profession, can really be tied, from La Régalade to the Relais, eighteen years apart! » Next weekend, if the weather is nice, Yves warns Bruno: he can serve up to 1,000 people… Before adding with a big smile: “I will be at the bowling green. »

Leave a Comment