“Catering, for me, is not a vocation, it is my lifeline. Not the kitchen, but the dining room, customer reception, wine list, daily management, fifty employees, service. I grew up in Paris, in the 14e district, and, as a child, I enjoyed cooking in a joyful and spontaneous way. I have memories of big barracks in the countryside, with lots of family friends, everyone in the kitchen, post-68 atmosphere … There was always a beef-carrot that simmered for hours, leg of crust or Milanese timpani, then thirty people at the table who drank, ate and discussed what they were going to cook in the evening…
I met Bertrand [Grébaut] at 15, when I was in Lavoisier high school. We became friends, to make the 400 blows together in the Latin Quarter … I was a good docile student, I did a scientific baccalaureate because I was told that was the right thing to do, I entered the Paris-Dauphine university in eco-management section because it was a good university. And all of a sudden they talked to me about micro and macroeconomics, I was lost, I dropped out completely. All I knew was that I loved to eat, and that I could never get enough of.
Work in the family unit
At the same time, I started working in the Italian restaurant that my brother-in-law, Julien Cohen, had created: Les Cailloux. I was at the service and at the bar, I learned the trade with young Italians, Sardinians, Tuscans, Sicilians, who also taught me their language… It was a revelation, I could make a living by having fun , it was instantly rewarding. I found myself parachuted director at 24 at Sasso, another establishment opened by Julien. I discovered working in a family unit, a sense of aesthetics, a universe, products, fleur de sel, green olive oil. It was simple, raw, good. We often ate bean pasta (pasta e fagioli) or chickpeas (pasta and this). A cucina povera [« cuisine du pauvre »] tasty and nourishing, soothing and energizing.
At that time, Bertrand and I were roommates, he came very often to the restaurant. He spent time in the kitchen, trying everything. His taste for cooking was confirmed, and he enrolled in the Ferrandi hotel school. He then went to work in big houses, Arpège, Agape, while I continued to manage restaurants. Then we both wanted to tell something more personal.
I went to live in Florence for a few months to close my Italian chapter, left for him to tour Asia, and we met to write what was to become Septimus. Obviously, things have changed since the opening in 2011, but the basics were there: we wanted to be kind and make good, simple, healthy and well-sourced, ethical, sustainable. A bit like this pasta and chickpea soup, which does not deceive and which can feed everyone. It’s fine, without snobbery, it’s real cooking. “