Monday, 10 a.m. While the restaurant is supposed to be closed today, there is animation in the kitchen. After greeting me warmly, Christophe Hardiquest welcomes me to his peaceful terrace. Feeling both liberated and moved – who wouldn’t be a few days before putting an end to such a beautiful chapter started more than 20 years ago? – he lent himself to the delicate exercise of the retrospective interview. Christophe Hardiquest is a two-starred chef, but he is above all a passionate and fascinating gastronome, an inspiring entrepreneur as well as a benevolent man overflowing with very beautiful values and attentive to the people around him. From his beginnings in a furniture store to his future, he lent himself to the game of confidences.
The video of the day :
Your love of food comes from your family. What convinced you to make it your job?
” I told my dad I wanted to be a chef when I was 13, it was in my DNA. This love comes to me from my grandmother who was also my godmother. She had craftsmanship in her skin, she did everything herself. She was preparing black pudding, ham, bacon. She made her own homemade milk bread. I was always in the kitchen licking the bottoms of the pan. The vol-au-vent sauce, the meat juices, the vanilla pudding… I have tastes and smells in my head that no one could imagine. It does not have a price. Everything I went through as a kid, I would like to put back in place. It’s one of my fantasies. »
Will this be part of your new career?
” Having my chickens, collaborating with a farmer, making compost: this is clearly part of my plans. I have a sort of circular vision for the restaurant of tomorrow. I’m in creative chaos. I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m going. I like this reset which will allow me to make decisions adapted to the evolution of the world. I am a challenger, I like challenges. That’s why I’m stopping my restaurant as we know it, because it didn’t suit me anymore. This creative chaos allows me to reposition myself. »
Who are the chefs who have inspired you the most?
” Alain Passard and Yannick Alléno, I consider them my two big brothers, we’ve known each other for years and we have a great relationship. I like the way they adapt to the times, they are always one step ahead. They inspired me a lot from a culinary point of view. »
When you opened the first Bon Bon, in a furniture store, you only had 2,500 euros in your pocket. Did you expect such success?
“ No. I just wanted to cook. I didn’t ask myself 36,000 questions. My heart was telling me to get started, to be bold. It was kind of my first creative chaos. I didn’t know where I was going. It is important to show a positive image of entrepreneurship, that it is not impossible to start from scratch, that there is not only the American dream, the European dream also exists. My real love in this job is to see the people I have trained succeed. »
Do you have examples?
” There are plenty ! They work in Canada, in Brazil, in the south of France… I’m thinking of Adrien Cunnac who worked for 10 years with me and who is chef at Chez Odette in Williers, France, a stone’s throw from the Franco-Belgian border. It will become a pearl of gastronomy, I tell you! I am also thinking of Basile De Wulf, a brilliant chef who opened his restaurant in a wooden chalet. There’s still Sebath Capela that I put on a project in Genappe, he’s going to be a hit! I really had the pleasure of training and inspiring a young generation that is even brighter than ours. »
What is your fondest memory?
” There are so many ! I remember a very impressive dinner, when the President of the American Senate came to eat at Bon Bon. There were snipers all over the rooftops and his bodyguards. It was crazy to have such artillery in and out of my restaurant. We also had quite a few stars who came to our house, I won’t name names, but I can only tell you that one day we had to refuse Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis as well as Nelly Furtado, because the restaurant was full from full. Another great memory is when a customer wants to make a meal without a limited budget, it gives us the opportunity to work with the most beautiful products, to have the most beautiful bottles. It’s very challenging to have to prepare the most beautiful menu there is. I also like the simpler things, when I see customers who don’t have the special means and who come to break the bank with us, to celebrate a special occasion. It touches me a lot. We spoil them even more, so that they live an even more magical experience. »
What signature dishes are you most proud of?
” My ‘White Pearl’ oyster jewels, a kind of oyster carpaccio served with a shallot and lovage whipped cream with caviar and mint oil. My red mullet in bacon scales, porcini mushrooms and old rum sauce or my duck with speculoos. »
Was having a star one of your goals?
” At first no, all I wanted was to cook. But when you get one, you’re in the game and want a second one. It’s a bit like a football team, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. When you play, you have to accept the rules. This allows a questioning, even if I do not always agree with their positions. But, deep down, I don’t care a bit. The most important thing for me is to rejoice in the success of others and to be free above all. I do what I want to do, I follow my heart and I stop my gastronomic restaurant. I’m really in total freedom of expression and in a new creative chaos “.
About the future of Bon Bon or his next projects, the chef still wants to be very discreet and prefers to wait a few months before revealing his new concepts. “We announce great things in perspective. But we will still wait a bit before revealing them. It will be for the end of 2022”, teases the chef. But, knowing the chef’s passion, background and talent, we suspect that he has some delicious surprises in store for us. If ending with a quote reminds me a little too much of my dissertation classes, I can’t help but slip in a thought from Charlie Chaplin that suits the chef and his new adventures perfectly: “From chaos (creative) a star is born “.