In the third article in our monthly series, chefs behind the chefs, which looks at long-standing chef partnerships, Kerstin Kühn speaks to Eric Chavot and Richard Hondier of Brasserie Chavot in Mayfair, who have worked together – on and off – since 1995
Richard Hondier, head chef, Brasserie Chavot
Eric and I are two complete opposites: he is very eccentric and bubbly; I’m more quiet and reserved. I’m the serious part of the relationship. In the kitchen he is the bad one and I am the good one. But we balance each other in everything we do.
Eric is a perfectionist and there are no shortcuts with him. I remember the first time I tasted his food at Interlude de Chavot on Charlotte Street – it was so delicious and amazing. I started working for him the next week. I followed him to Chavot in Fulham, but after three-and-a-half years with him I wanted to go and do something new. I spent a year
at Italian restaurant Floriana with Fabio Trabocchi, who was doing really interesting, modern things, and I learnt a lot there. I then went to La Dordogne in Chiswick [now La Trompette] as head chef. I gave so much to build up the business, but then the dying owner’s children sold the restaurant and overnight it was all over.
In 2000, when Eric was at the Capital hotel, he called me back to work with him. I joined as head chef and I stayed until after he left in 2009. They did offer me his position, but I said no. I couldn’t see how I could run it without him. We were a team, and everything we achieved, we achieved together. We built up a repertoire of recipes together and I couldn’t do it with just me on my own.
When Eric returned from the US, I really wanted to be part of Brasserie Chavot and help him make a new success in London. We have built the business up from scratch together and are working hard to make it successful. But I have a really good work-life balance, thanks to Eric.
After 18 years of knowing each other, ours is a working relationship, but it’s a friendship, too. We really trust each other and respect each other. I can say anything to Eric, and I think that’s really rare.
Eric Chavot, chef-patron, Brasserie Chavot
Richard was a gift from the gods when he first came to me. The first six months at Interlude de Chavot were chaos – I had such staffing problems. After a few weeks with Richard
I really started to delegate because he just slotted in.
We always treat each other with respect. Never once have I said to him: “This is how I work.” We have always been a team and worked together. Our styles and backgrounds are very different, but when we come together in the kitchen we complete each other. Richard is as good as I am as a chef. He’s only ever overcooked one thing: a piece of lamb. He wrapped it up in tinfoil and hid it in his pocket, and when we got changed after service it fell out. I still tease him about that today.
I’m the little devil and he’s the angel. I used to lose my temper quite a lot back in the day, and he would just stand there and look at me and shake his head. He is the calm in the storm and he somehow takes my nastiness and turns it into something positive.
We both work very hard and we spend more time together than we do with our families. He has been there with me through everything: the birth of my children, my divorce. I can’t imagine being without him.
When he was working at Dordogne he was so frustrated. He came to me at the Capital and we spent nine years together before I left.
He had the opportunity to take over, but he said no. I told him to leave, but he stayed.
We kept in touch the whole time I was gone, and when I got the restaurant here I offered him the position. Could I have opened Brasserie Chavot without Richard? Yes, but not if I could have helped it.
You have some very good number ones and some extraordinary number twos. Richard’s loyalty, professionalism and kindness are incredible. He is the whole package.