You could say that Yannick Franques was born under a bright star. The new chef of La Réserve de Beaulieu, situated just a stone’s throw from the Principality of Monaco was appointed at the behest of Jean-Claude Delion, owner of the legendary palace.
After abandoning a promising career in football at the age of 16, he decided to follow his mother’s advice and opted for a career as a chef. Having apprenticed with such illustrious names as Alain Ducasse and Christian Constant, he also worked in the kitchens of the Hotel Crillon, on the Place de la Concorde in Paris for the former assistant director Eric Fréchon, now the chef of the Bristol Hotel in Paris. He has indeed honed his craft with the very best.
“Everything started with his very first mentor and apprenticeship master Joël Girodot de la Tonelle Saintongeaise in the very chic quarter of Neuilly-sur-Seine, in the Hauts-de-Seine region… ” recounts Yannick Franques. Joël Girodot is retired today but he still keeps in touch with his young apprentice who passed his culinary CAP when he was under him.” Yannick then went on to perform his military service in Paris at the Cercle Militaire des armées as chef.
After this, he joined a small family establishment belonging to a friend of Girodot who’s precious list of contacts includes some of the greatest chefs in the capital. He said to me “Stay a year and then I’ll find you a place with one of my friends.” After a short time (just 8 months) at Le Doyen (2 Michelin stars) Yannick Franques was appointed 1st Commis at the Crillon under Christian Constant, another friend of Joël Girodot’s. Constant in his turn sent me to Louis XV, the jewel of the Monegasque hotel industry with Alain Ducasse at the helm. I was travelling between Ducasse, Constant and his former assistant at the Crillon, Eric Fréchon. I was at the disposition of all of these great chefs, until Eric Fréchon took over the kitchens at the Bristol in Paris and asked me to be his second in command. The collaboration lasted eight years. During that time, I won the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF, Best Craftsman of France 2004). I wasn’t very keen to compete as I’m not a fan of competitions. It’s a lot of work. At the Bristol, I was one of six seconds, Eric Fréchon practically ordered me to take part and when I received the tasks, I put my head to it very seriously and succeeded the first time round. There was no pressure and this is what helped the most.”
It was in the Principality of Monaco, at the hotel Mirabeau that Franques was appointed Executive Chef de Cuisines for the first time. A few months after his appointment, the Mirabeau was transformed into a hotel residence. “It was a painful experience – said Franques because I had moved to the region with my wife and children. That was in 2007. Three years later after obtaining the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France at the first go. I then learned that the Château Saint-Martin was looking for a head chef. I was one of many who applied. I later learned that an advisor o the group had spoken on my behalf saying that I was the one who could restore their two Michelin star status in three years– as they had lost one. I got it back for them in two…”
“Following a change in management, after six years or excellent and loyal service and collaboration, we parted ways.”
Yannick Franques then faced a new challenge at Terres Blanches in Tourettes in the Var region managing five restaurants. “There wasn’t the same stringency as I experienced in the Principality of Monaco. There wasn’t the same notion of quality to which I had become attached. So I decided to leave as soon as an opportunity presented itself.” Yannick remembered a meeting he had three years ago with Jean-Claude Delion, the director of la Réserve de Beaulieu. “Nothing came out of our discussion at the time because I wanted to honour my other engagements. I felt obligated to the château Saint Martin. I wanted to continue down the road with them. My decision to change orientation was made easier when my scruples were no longer important considering the situation.”
Jean-Claude Delion understood and respected my decision. Despite everything, I took up the challenge. The situation didn’t drag; in fact it changed very quickly. Jean-Claude Delion’s objective is the restitution of his two star Michelin prestige. For such an establishment it is primordial. Our kitchens will give priority primarily to seafood. With regard to this attribute of the region and the historic premises, I will be working on my culinary ideas for the next three months. We will begin serving gastronomic cuisine from April onwards.
In the meantime, the hotel boutique is closed for its transformation to a chic bistro. I have three months to create my menu. In keeping with the principles that have earned me my two stars at the Château St Martin, I will be working on every single dish personally for the menus as well as à la carte. We will also have a special meat menu. We cannot offer molecular cuisine here. I like gourmet, bourgeois cuisine. A bourgeois Provencal cuisine. I especially love olive oil. My gourmet dishes will be mainly olive oil based. There is also the bistro we need to get up and running. It is the alternative place. The cuisine will be ‘bistro chic’ yet simple.
For example, vegetables will be served in olive wood bowls or charcuterie served on wood boards. First and foremost, I need to be supported in my endeavour. As such, Yannick Franques intends to perpetuate his menu with a regional accent for the gastronomic establishment Le Restaurant des Rois. There will be his mythic plat de résistance “Le mystère de l’oeuf” a creation based on crème de Parmesan and a runny yolk, presented in a parmesan brioche. Yannick Franques’ cuisine is sheer harmony. It is based primarily on a rigorous technique and an incontestable creative instinct. There is no doubt that this manifold starred chef, known as much for his brilliant experience, inimitable talent as for his innovative culinary compositions will propel le Restaurant des Rois into the inner circle of the most reputed restaurants in the region.
A new challenge awaits Yannick Franques. No doubt he has something new to reveal. For Jean-Claude Delion has staked everything on this talented young virtuoso, putting at his disposition all necessary means. And La Réserve de Beaulieu is already dreaming: why not a third Michelin star.