Dare to have more fun
« I completely freed myself from this pressure, »says Jean-Charles Hospital (50). He smiles. « One day I simply told myself: stop it, Jean-Charles. Now it’s time to have some fun. Only fun. » The pressure is this: everything in connection with a Michelin star and other prizes. The fun: the oven in Le Bistro- nome in the Route d’Arlon. Hospital has worked here, in his own kitchen, since July 14th 2010. « I can cook whatever I feel like without having to think about certain criteria, which I might have to fulfil to get a star. » The stars are not strangers to him, nor is their attraction. The man from the Champagne region learnt the trade of pâtissier, chocolatier, and glacier at the school of hotel management in Saint-Didier, and won a gold medal for being the best trainee in France. For his military service he spent two years in Washington DC as the personal cook to the French military attaché. « I was twenty years old and did not have a lot of experience. But I got to meet the French Minister of Defence and the American President. » After that he worked with the starred chef Didier Delu in Paris for a year and then for two years with Roger Souvereyns, the chef of the legendary Scholteshof in the Belgian city of Hasselt. He was chef-patissier in a two star establishment. « I was given free reign in creating the menu, » he remembers, « and Souvereyns impressed me with his savoir-faire in the kitchen and through his innova- tive taste. Aesthetic taste, too. » Then he made the change to starred chef Rik Vandersanden not far away at De Barrier in Houthalen. Here, in Flanders, far away from French cuisine, he learnt to perfect his English surrounded by cooks from all over the world. He stayed for seven years: « That’s a long time in this profession. »
The Luxembourgish leg of his journey started about 20 years ago when he joined Pascal Brasseur in the restaurant Wengé as chef. « For nine years he put his faith in me. That was so important to me, » says Hospital, « I could do what I wanted in the kitchen. That was a good opportunity to put myself out there in Luxembourg. » Then, he and Philippe L’Hôpital opened Le Bistronome together, with the energetic support of gastronomic advisor Tony Tintinger (« he helped us a lot »). The distribution of tasks is clear: the kitchen is Hospital’s responsibility; L’Hôpital takes care of the service.
« You can do a lot of wonderful things with those if the preparation is good and the ingredient fresh. »
« It’s not an easy kitchen but a kitchen with several techniques and in which one respects the simple products of the season, » Hospital defines his work thus. « Everything depends on the chef, » he says. He has to constantly « question himself ». Everything is always changing. For example, for three years now business meals have been happening less often, are becoming shorter and faster. And the clients are getting younger. « You have to move with the times. » For Le Bistronome that means that Hospital has reduced the offer of first courses and main dishes somewhat, and reduced the price of the three-course Menu du Marché from 41 to 39 euros. « I also use fewer noble ingredients, which are already so expensive when buying and some clients find those prices exorbitant. » That means less turbot, John Dory, and crayfish, more gilthead or monkfish. « You can do a lot of wonderful things with those if the preparation is good and the ingredient fresh. »
He feels at home in Luxembourg, which is also where his son was born. « The Luxembourgish people have given me a lot of their trust. The country is beautiful and green and has a great location in Europe. » Le Bistronome is closed on Sundays and Mondays, as well as at Christmas and in the summer holidays. « You have to protect family life. » That, he says, is important: « I really did not want my wife to work with me in the business. » He is determined to protect his emotional and family life. « I’ve seen too many bad examples. » Naturally, he still cooks at Christmas and on holidays, « but only with family and friends. Completely relaxed. And with an open bottle of wine in the kitchen. That’s real pleasure. »
373, Route dʼArlon — L-8011 Strassen
Tel. +352 / 26 31 31 90