After two years of reflection and substantial work, what was once a gastronomic mecca in 1920 under the name of Les Ambassadeurs, is coming back under the helm of Michelin-starred chef, Christophe Cussac at the Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo.
The Principality of Monaco was always famous for its gastronomic excellence thanks to its iconic restaurants run by multiple Michelin starred chefs. However, the year 2023 is different as all eyes are on Chef Christophe Cussac, who opens his signature restaurant, bearing his name, called “Les Ambassadeurs by Christophe Cussac”.
Ideally located in the Carré d’Or, a few steps from the Casino, the Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. This luxurious Belle Époque property was built in 1886 and its gastronomic restaurant “Les Ambassadeurs by Christophe Cussac” reveals a refined and gourmet Mediterranean cuisine for its guests.
Michelin starred Chef Christophe Cussac was born in Paris, France and as one of the most renowned chefs of the Principality of Monaco, he is a marker of simple great cuisine.
Journeys like that of Christophe Cussac belong to a certain kind: chefs who live through their era by being in the right place at the right time.
Few can claim to have known the Joël Robuchon era, followed by Troisgros Roanne, and then go on to the family abbey inn of Saint Michel, in Tonnerre in Burgundy (two stars), the Reserve de Beaulieu (two stars), and finally the Metropole (since 2004) to accompany Joël Robuchon; whilst still retaining those two stars.
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 wings 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, he became Executive Chef at La Réserve restaurant in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, where he was again awarded two Michelin stars.
In 2004, a wonderful new adventure arose for Chef Cussac when the late 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.
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 is cultivating the Principality with his excellence.
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.
Having had such an instrumental role behind the scenes, Chef Cussac now stands in the spotlight as he started a new adventure with the anticipation of a revival of the historic “Les Ambassadeurs” restaurant, the acclaimed cult venue of the 1920s.
How does it feel to have this new restaurant with your name?
“It is a privilege to open my own restaurant, especially in the Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo where I have such loyal guests.
As a chef, it is a real honour to have a restaurant in Monaco. I think it draws the finest clientele in the world, and I am proud to welcome guests to the restaurant “Les Ambassadeurs by Christophe Cussac”.”
Chef Cussac’s new menu reflects this approach, including one particular dish that took everyone by surprise: his freshly marinated sardine, caviar and Menton lemon. His tasty yet risky dish speaks of the Mediterranean with panache.
What was the inspiration behind the menu?
“The menu is a combination of contemporary Mediterranean cuisine in its broadest sense, with spices or dishes from Spain, North Africa, etc… – crafted with influences from my own culinary heritage through the respect of French culinary art.”
The menu is clear and straightforward: gamberoni rossi, summer salad, rosemary burrata; lasagne of lobster, tarragon, spinach and spianata; John Dory and artichoke, coriander broth; veal chop, porcini mushroom sauce “Arroz de Calasparra” saffron seafood.
And of course, the desserts are fresh and relevant with the seasons: beechwood- smoked chocolate with crunchy gavotte or lemon tartlet with basil sorbet.
Chef Cussac’s menu is simple and authentic: three flavours per dish, to highlight the essential ingredients.
“At Les Ambassadeurs, I’m going to offer a cuisine that’s both savoury and simple. A cuisine that I want to eat and that people should want to eat every day. So that means Italian, Greek, Lebanese, Spanish… all these influences will be present in the dishes.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t incorporate elements from outside, because cooking is always evolving. Meat, fish, vegetables, spices… I’m particularly fond of saffron. My cooking is varied.”
What is your favourite dish from the menu?
“I propose a fresh sardine with preserved Menton lemon and a sparkling sauce. It is cooked with lemon. This dish is representative of my cuisine in its simplicity.
A dish which is surprising for its simplicity is the sea bream tartare and caviar cannelloni, which will surely become a popular sensation.”
Upon discovering the new restaurant, the regulars of the Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo will immediately understand that the restaurant is returning into its century with a desire for openness and transparency.
“Les Ambassadeurs by Christophe Cussac” restores a new atmosphere for gastronomes to enjoy, closer to the hard working team.
There are 15 people in the restaurant team, including the sommeliers, and 10 in the kitchen dedicated exclusively to the gastronomic restaurant.
It will also be possible to get closer, at the chef’s table, or in the kitchen area, to discover the world of patisserie and bakery.
Their creations are highlighted during rituals that punctuate the service with the stunning appearance of the bread and dessert trolleys to the great delight of the hosts.
If Les Ambassadeurs is back, it’s not to make a show, but to give regulars and newcomers some good news: simple cuisine at its finest is back.
How would you differentiate the restaurant from the classic Robuchon style?
“It is an honour to follow in the footsteps of my mentor and great chef, Joël Robuchon. I pay homage to him by serving his purée de pomme de terre for which he was world renowned, with several dishes.
We have also kept the original kitchen tiles chosen by Joël Robuchon, which the guests can see through the open kitchen.
I wouldn’t be able to differentiate my cuisine from Robuchon’s style because I have spent more than 40 years collaborating with him. He is my mentor. Since my first meeting with him, he guided me in life and inspired me – he used to call me “my little one”. Nothing escaped Joël Robuchon, he had excellent attention to detail.
To describe my style, I have a golden rule: three flavours per dish to highlight the essential ingredients. Above all else, it is cooking that I love. I make dishes that I would enjoy.
Over time, I have learned to simplify, to focus on the products without overcomplicating them. My goal is that when someone tastes my cooking, they immediately understand the dish, remember it and want to come back for more. Keep it simple, but above all good.”
As for the décor, “Les Ambassadeurs by Christophe Cussac” follows the graphic rhythm of the hotel orchestrated by the famous architect-decorator, Jacques Garcia. In the restaurant, the Garcia style accompanies the spirit of the new menu with luminous tones: bronze, ivory, luminous yellow, gold for a warm and Mediterranean spirit creating a fresh and welcoming atmosphere.
The “Garcia style” offers a unique design in one of the Principality’s most anticipated gastronomic restaurants. Everything in the design is brought together to create an atmosphere that is both friendly and spectacular, a way of maintaining the prestige and the “social dining” appeal that is so dear to the Monégasques.
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.”
Who was your biggest inspiration?
“Joël Robuchon was my spiritual father. 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.”
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.
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.