Head chef of Hôtel Métropole Monte-Carlo, Chef Christophe Cussac is one of the most renowned chefs of the Principality of Monaco. Having learned alongside the late Joël Robuchon, Chef Cussac enriches Monaco’s culinary scenery since 2004, the opening day of the Hôtel Métropole Monte-Carlo.
Michelin starred Chef Christophe Cussac was born in Paris, France and he is a former student of the legendary Chef Joël Robuchon.
The “Chef of the Century“, Chef Robuchon passed away recently on August 6, 2018. He was internationally famous for the relentless perfection that he dedicated to his cuisine. This has helped to turn the Principality of Monaco into a world-class and unique culinary capital. Chef Robuchon retained the most Michelin stars in the world of any living chef. His gastronomical revolution and legacy still live on thanks to Chef Christophe Cussac, who strives to push the boundaries of what can be achieved and who is cultivating the Principality with his excellence.
Did you always want to be a chef?
“It is a family story that began in Burgundy,” remembers Chef Cussac. – “At the age of eight, I was already immersed in the restaurant business thanks to my grandmother, who knew how to cook very well. She took over an 11th-century abbey to make a restaurant, then one day my father took over it. He wanted to turn it into a hotel, so he turned it into a Relais & Châteaux and obtained a Michelin star. After studying at the Ecole hôtelière in Paris and my military service, a combination of circumstances led me to Joël Robuchon, the meeting of a lifetime. He was in his thirties and was the head chef at the Concorde Lafayette Hotel in Paris. He already wanted to revolutionise the restaurant business. And as proof, he took me under his wing as a kitchen secretary, a position focused on administrative tasks but which did not exist at the time!”
To be more precise, in 1984, Chef Cussac joined the family hotel, “L’Abbaye St Michel” in Tonnerre, Burgundy, where he was awarded two stars in the Michelin Guide. This is from where his journey continued to the Côte d’Azur when in 1997, Chef Cussac became Executive Chef at La Réserve restaurant in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, where he was again awarded two Michelin stars.
Who was your biggest inspiration?
“Since I met with Joël Robuchon I have followed him and he has guided my life and inspired me ever since. He used to call me “my little one”. He was my spiritual father. Nothing escaped Joël Robuchon’s notice. To complete my training, he sent me to pastry making and then to cooking, whereas in general, chefs in the top kitchens do not do pastry-making… He told me that it would be useful for me later on. And he was right, of course.”
Being a former student of Joël Robuchon, what was the most important lesson he has taught you?
“He used to say and repeat regularly, “you can’t cook if you don’t like people” and this is what I want to pass on to the younger generations of cooks that I work with.”
In 2004, a wonderful new adventure arose for Chef Cussac when Joël Robuchon called him to Monaco for the opening of the Hôtel Métropole Monte-Carlo. Chef Cussac worked alongside Joël Robuchon as his Executive Chef to create a new vision in the four restaurants of the hotel.
Hôtel Métropole Monte-Carlo was originally opened back in 1889 when Monte-Carlo Hotel Company Ltd. acquired the land, previously owned by Pope XIII.
In the 1980s, the Lebanese developer, Nabil Boustany, acquired the property and took on the major operation of restoring the hotel to its former brilliance.
Moving forward to the fall of 2003, the Belle Époque stylishly built hotel embarked on a new chapter with a second restoration. The new five-star establishment re-opened in summer 2004 as Hôtel Métropole Monte-Carlo, representing the pinnacle of luxury with a new concept of prestige and hospitality. This was also the time when Joël Robuchon reached out to Chef Cussac.
Following the legacy of his spiritual father, stimulated by curiosity and desire, Chef Cussac always applies the values dear to his mentor: love of a work well done, high standards, and transmission.
You are with Hôtel Métropole since 2004. What has been your most memorable moment there during these years?
“I have to say that I was very emotional when we cooked for the wedding brunch of H.S.H. Prince Albert II alongside the teams of both chef Alain Ducasse and Christian Garcia in the intimate setting of the gardens of the Prince’s Palace, it was truly an unforgettable moment!”
What is your favourite culinary style? And why?
“I enjoy cuisine that evolves because it is not something static. This also means training the next generation and constantly seeking innovation. To innovate without losing the product, the taste, and keeping it simple. To offer a unique and convivial moment, which combines three ingredients: the place and atmosphere, the service, and the dish. Every day we try to make our customers as happy as possible, to offer them a unique experience and beautiful memories.”
Have you seen any changes in the culinary trends in Monaco over the past decade?
“I foresee a trend in regards to sustainability. Cooking and sourcing are becoming less of an aspiration and more of an expectation by our customers. The Principality of Monaco is very attached to sustainability and the Hotel has adopted more than 10 years ago an environmental policy called «Green Attitude» which also impacts the way we cook and consume. For example, the Metropole Monte-Carlo Restaurant follows the “Mister Goodfish” program, encouraged by the Foundation Prince Albert II of Monaco. This association optimizes seafood consumption. It helps us to contribute regularly to sustainable management of resources by choosing the right fish.”
The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation is the South East regional coordinator for the „Mr Goodfish“ campaign to promote the responsible consumption of seafood. In association with the Mare Nostrum Aquarium and the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation is making hotel professionals, chefs, fishermen, and restaurant owners aware of the issue of sustainability. They propose and indicate which seafood products are preferable to select from for consumption.
The goal of this initiative, which is already hugely successful in the Channel and North Sea areas, is to offer an alternative to consumers by encouraging them to try new species selected from a list established by the „Mr Goodfish“ campaign.
The selection of suggested fish is planned at each change of season according to the region, the state of the resource, the size, and the status of the species (protected or not). The incentive enables followers to purchase fresh fish and at the same time preserve the resources of the sea.
“I also prefer the usage of regional products when creating a dish. Guests are looking for authenticity, simplicity, and conviviality… We also took part in the “Less Saves the Planet” initiative, which states that eating 90 gr. of meat or fish per meal is enough for the well-being of each person, and consuming less has a considerable impact on the planet. That is why I integrated our menu options with smaller portions that can be available.”
Based on your opinion, what makes someone become a great chef?
“It takes a lot of work, perseverance, and team building, without which you are nothing.”
What is the biggest gastronomical challenge for a chef in Monaco?
“Monaco is definitely a culinary destination for all tastes. It’s very dynamic, coveted, and new eateries are opening very frequently. There are around 170 restaurants, six of which boast a combined nine Michelin stars. A striking culinary accomplishment in a 2×2 km country! I believe this is a real challenge for a chef here as there are very new interesting concepts opening in the Principality.”
What is the source of your gastronomical inspiration when it comes to new recipes?
“I am inspired by a product and then I work around that. I also like to revisit a traditional recipe.”
Do you cook at home?
“Yes, I do and I love cooking very simple dishes. Since my parents were restaurant owners, I have always appreciated the many rituals linked to the preparation of meals which, when done together, is a moment of exchange, sharing, and love. In everyday life, the meal is the most important moment of the day because the members of the family get together. I have many memories of these lively, warm family gatherings that encouraged exchange and communication in an atmosphere of relaxation and pleasure.”
Generally, what is your favourite dish?
“Sunday’s roast chicken with the family,” – smiles Chef Cussac.
The lobby bar is the unmissable meeting place for fine diners to taste modern, innovative, and refined cuisine using Mediterranean flavours. Yet, during summertime as an alternative choice for dinner, Odyssey designed by Karl Lagerfeld is a charming poolside restaurant within a ‘haute couture’ setting featuring the fascinating photographic fresco with glass screens dedicated to the adventures of the Greek hero. Here, reality takes over myth in an epic version revisited by the artist.
At the exceptional setting of the Odyssey restaurant, Chef Cussac proposes a tasty Mediterranean cuisine, light and fresh dishes during summer evenings under the stars.
What would be the “must try” dish from your Summer menu?
“I would recommend the fried red mullet with parsley, coriander and Menton lemon. This is one of our most sought after dish at our Lobby Bar.”