Christian Constant is not only a remarkable chef, he’s also a remarkable man. He belongs to that rare species – a recognised artisan loved and respected by those he has trained, by his peers as well and his rivals. He inspires affection. He commands respect. He is adored by those he has taught and mentored and by those who seek to emulate his considerable achievements.
Taken on as an apprentice at Restaurant Delmas in his hometown, Montauban, 14 year old Christian Constant cycled past the Musée d’Ingres everyday dreaming of one day having his own restaurant. 30 years later that dream was realised when he and his British wife Catherine opened the doors of their 60 seater restaurant at 135 rue Saint-Dominique in the chic 7th arrondissment of Paris. They called it Le Violon d’Ingres in homage to Ingres and Montauban.
Now his 3 restaurants on rue Saint-Dominique are Parisian landmarks: the street is affectionately known by locals as rue Constant because Les Cocottes, Café Constant and Le Violon d’Ingres all occupy a place there.
But it was years of hard graft, dedication to his cooking and a dash of luck which brought him his well deserved success. In 1970 he arrived in Paris to carry out his Military Service. He then worked at Ledoyen restaurant. Another 7 years as Chef de Cuisine at The Ritz followed by 8 years as Executive Chef at The Hotel de Crillon. At the age of 45 he decided it was time to branch out on his own.
Christian Constant’s burning ambition to create a deluxe but informal brasserie drove him to open Le Violon d’Ingres in January 1997 which today is crowned with 1 Michelin star. Les Cocottes and Le Café Constant followed through the magical combination of hard work and being in the right place at the right time, whilst each restaurant has it’s very own unique identity, all offer fresh and delicious food at down to earth prices.
June 2012 saw the opening of the magnificent historically listed restaurant Le Bibent, a beautiful brasserie situated on the Place du Capitole, at the heart of Toulouse, a must for all visitors.
Christian Constant has always encouraged and nurtured talented young chefs working under his guidance. In fact he measures his own success against their achievements and bonds between them remain strong. His boys include Éric Fréchon (The Bristol) Yves Camdeborde (Le Comptoir du Relais Saint-Germain), Thierry Faucher (Le Barbezingue), Franck Barenger (Le Pantruche) and Alain Pegouret (Chez Laurent). The list of chefs who have worked under his tutelage is a very long and impressive one. Most significantly, Christian broke the French culinary tradition of keeping protégés tied to Chef’s apron strings by encouraging his team to branch out and open their own restaurants. He is recognised as a true “Formateur” in cooking circles and one of the pioneers of the ‘bistronomie movement’.
Monsieur Constant has many accolades which include being made Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (April 2010) and Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Feb 2012) . As he remarked on receiving the award, “Not bad for a boy refused a place at Ecole Hotéliere.” There’s still a bit of the naughty schoolboy lurking there and we love him for it.