“For me there are no great chefs. The real greatness of a chef can only lie on his simplicity, his humility. He must never forget that the produce is the basis, he must never forget that if he doesn’t use quality produce, the result of his cooking cannot be quality.
Take a frozen lobster and give it to Alain Ducasse or to any other great chef and that won’t work! But take a wolffish caught in the Mediterranean, in Ajaccio or St Tropez, give it to someone who loves his work and he’ll season it and cook it as it should be, and that added to good produces will turn out food of high quality.“ – Chef Clément Bruno
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Chez Bruno – Serving 4000 Kilos Of Truffles Per Year
Chez Bruno is a Michelin one-star truffle specialist restaurant located just outside of Lorgues, Provence, France. Restaurant Chez Bruno holds the record for serving the largest amount of truffles per year in the world, 4000 kilos (4 tons) to its 36,000 yearly guests.
One of the first questions that comes to mind is: Where do they get all of those truffles from? According to Chef Clément Bruno, they come from the Haut Var, the local region around the restaurant. They come from the Drôme, Carpentras, and also through traders and truffle growers who sell them to Chez Bruno. The truffles also come from Italy. The Brunos have a large supplier in Umbria and another in the town of Norcia, as well as in Alba, the home of the world-famous Alba Truffle.
Chez Bruno Shifted My Truffle Paradigm
Being a gourmand at an early age is not always the easiest of life styles to manage, even as an adult. I loved and craved the experience of eating great food and drinking lovely wines with friends and family. In my search for the opportunity to taste everything that appeals to the senses, I came across the truffle. My first reaction was that the truffle was an ugly, earthy and bulbous black growth that pigs find in the ground.
And it was terribly expensive to boot! Early experiences with truffle eating involved contact with overpriced odd tasting food containing truffle oils and sometimes embedded with the most minuscule of crushed truffles.
This garnered my belief that the truffle was just a hype food category that rich people could brag about eating to their friends. This opinion caused me to shy away from any and all truffle dishes on the menu of multiple French and Italian restaurants, including Chez Bruno. Restaurant Chez Bruno shifted my paradigm!
To provide a little history, my wife and I had a house in the popular region of France called the Provence, just outside of the medieval village of Les Arcs, 30 minutes from the Mediterranean and just a 10-minute drive from restaurant Chez Bruno in Lorgues. Many people had recommended Chez Bruno to us and every time we drove by we noted that one day we will actually eat there.
The restaurant had an international reputation and one could see the occasional helicopter landing near the property, ferrying eager Côte d’Azur residents and visitors to their pricy lunches. Probably due to the quantity of the truffles served and the quality of the cooking or Chef Clément Bruno’s outgoing personality, the operation had received a good amount of past media attention, including videos by French television stations FR3, TV5 and a 2007 feature on CNN.
Well last fall, while we were in the process of selling our house, we finally decided to go to meet the folks at Chez Bruno and make a reservation for dinner. My wife and I had spent the last two years traveling around Europe and South America creating videos and stories about wine, food, tourism and lifestyle.
We were strolling through the busy French market in Lorgues at lunchtime and Chez Bruno was just a short drive from there, so we decided to see if they might be interested in an article and video about them. The paradigm shift was just about to happen.
Before our meeting with the famous Chef Bruno himself, we were invited to have lunch on the terrace by one of his two sons Samuel, who happened to be the manager of the restaurant. His other son Benjamin serves as Chez Bruno’s top chef.
Beginning with my first taste of the appetizer, a foie gras with truffles and port sauce, my mouth exploded with flavor that left my pallet feeling warm, fuzzy and very content.
This oral happiness then spread to my to brain and all of a sudden the hustle and bustle of the market faded into a quiet pleasure of lunching on the lovely, shaded terrace at Chez Bruno.
The location was sophisticated and elegant, but made my wife and I feel peaceful and very comfortable. The service was friendly and impeccable, a little like dining with the angels. The foie gras was followed by a delicious potatoes with truffles, then lamb shoulder with truffles (milk-fed lamb from the Pyrenees), oven cooked for 5 hours, and accompanied by small mushrooms. Lunch finished with Chef Clément Bruno’s addictively mouthwatering invention, Italian vanilla truffle ice-cream. Sipping on a local Rosé wine complimented the experience and it just felt heavenly.
So this was what truffles were supposed to taste like! We were hooked.
Chez Bruno serves generous portions in a comfortable, relaxed and welcoming, outdoor or indoor atmosphere. Although pricy for most, you do get your money’s worth for the food here. The grounds are filled with artworks that tantalize the senses.
The service is friendly and impeccable. They serve a large variety of local wines and use fresh, local produce. Guests are always welcome to visit the kitchen during their stay at the restaurant, including the possibility to dine at a small two-person table located in the kitchen.
The secret to their success with truffles includes using simple carriers for the truffle. When you pay a good deal for the truffle, you want to be able to really taste it and not be distracted by a lot of other flavors.
I still find myself day-dreaming about the surprising taste of the pre-desert; an Italian vanilla truffle ice cream: rich, complex, creamy, and yummy to the extreme. The main desserts are spectacular to the eye and to the palate.
Restaurant Chez Bruno
Chez Bruno is truly a family establishment. Sons Benjamin, the Chef and Samuel, the restaurant manager have taken the helm to the great delight of their father Chef Clément, who spent a better part of his life making Chez Bruno a unique success.
“I have two sons: I explained to both of them (they have worked their way up) that this house where they were born, where they grew up and the grass where they used to play ball and where they rode their bicycles and motorcycles is here.”
“I am 66 now and I am happy to see that Benjamin does fantastic work in the kitchen; that he has not forgotten the lessons I gave him, that he hasn’t forgotten what he had learned when an apprentice with other cooks-Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athénée or with my former chef, who had been a cook at Ducasse’s or with Roger Jalou, who used to be Bocuse’s chef and with me, with all modesty, who taught him and who still directs him today.
I keep reminding him: ”be careful, stick to the line we’ve followed, keep its simplicity, we have something unique; here you can eat rabbit with gnocchi like the ones in Italy; here the cuisine is different and you can eat things that are so simple and so good that people travel from far to come and visit us.”
“If we had to say what would be the perfect meal at Bruno’s, I would have to mention our classic dishes: potatoes with truffles, truffles en feuilleté (truffles in puff pastry). I would start with “Oeuf Albufera” (poached eggs with Albufera sauce) with truffles of course, and a foie gras and port sauce.
I would then serve the Truffles en feuilleté and “Lardo di Colonnata (organic lard)– with foie gras filled with truffle and a Bordelaise aux truffles (steak with truffles). I would then serve potatoes with truffle and I would end up with lamb shoulder (milk-fed lamb from the Pyrenees) – oven cooked for 5 hours, accompanied by small mushrooms – fresh, or girolles, or cepes or lactaires mushrooms– and I would have a good dessert made by our pastry chef.” – Chef Clément Bruno