16 May 2024

Top Canberra chef explains why good food is best enjoyed off beautiful plates

| Dione David
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“Eat beautifully” is a simple philosophy that governs every element of a dining experience at Les Bistronomes. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

A decade since the Les Bistronomes executive chef Clément Chauvin created his signature “mushroom cappuccino”, the delectable entree is about to realise its full potential, and the secret ingredient is nothing edible.

Instead, a piece of functional art elevates the dish-glass “mushroom caps” in a rainbow of hues, hand-blown by Dan Venables, each as unique as a fungus in the wild.

Clément believes this is how the dish is meant to be served, but more importantly, it reflects his culinary philosophy.

“A glass receptacle adds nothing to the flavour, but it adds to the concept of creating an experience, and not just food,” he says.

“I call myself a food artist in the sense that I use food to express myself artistically and create emotions, memories, and experiences for the people who walk through the doors of Les Bistronomes.

“If food is a way to express myself artistically, then my canvas is the plate.”

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The old chef’s adage “You eat with your eyes first” is present at every turn at Les Bistronomes, where glass mushroom caps are only the beginning.

Diners can feast their eyes on cutlery forged by Dan Venables or crockery handcrafted by Canberra potter Chris Harford.

“Chris makes plates for a lot of restaurants in Canberra and has built up a reputation for exceptional work. I can go to him with my design, and he will make it a reality. The results will always be exceptional,” Clément says.

“Among my favourites are the ‘broken plates’ he has made for me. They have asymmetrical edges and are finished in a special glaze. They’re works of art in their own right and unique in the world.”

The thought is not lost on Les Bistronomes customers. Clément says they almost always take the time to comment on these details. But while this customer experience is the driving force behind the collaborations, there are other benefits – to local artists and small businesses and the restaurant’s mission of transporting people through food experiences.

“You can go and shop around with big companies, and apart from being very impersonal, the only thing you’re going to get is what everyone else uses,” Clément says.

“By using local artists, I know my money is going towards supporting local dreams, but also that each piece of crockery or cutlery is unique – you won’t find them in any other restaurant.

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“At the end of the day, it ties in with the very roots of what we’re achieving at Les Bistronomes – an overall experience diners won’t find anywhere else. We have never stood on only one element of the dining experience – the cooking, the service, the wine selection, and yes, the food, but also the cutlery that brings it to your table, brings it to your lips, is all carefully considered, because a restaurant is a whole picture.

“It all comes together to send one clear message when you walk through the door: you’re in for a treat.”

Les Bistronomes is located at 18 Blamey Place, Campbell Shops and is open Tuesdays to Saturdays for lunch and dinner.


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