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But when Claude Bosi set up shop there in April 2017, it received not one Michelin star but two within months. Few were surprised; certainly not those who have followed his career and especially those who have eaten his food.
Born in Lyon, Bosi developed a passion for cooking at his parents' bistro before learning his craft under two legendary chefs in Paris: Alain Ducasse and his mentor Alain Passard.
Aged 25, Bosi moved to the UK and settled in Ludlow, Shropshire, where he worked as sous chef and then head chef at Overton Grange, earning a Michelin star almost instantly.
Bosi then opened his own restaurant, Hibiscus in Ludlow, which subsequently gained two Michelin stars. He then made the unexpected move of transferring the restaurant to Mayfair in 2007 and delivered a second shock by selling up in 2016.
Bibendum owner and restaurant royalty Sir Terrence Conran approached Bosi about some consultancy work and talked him into a permanent position as head chef at Bibendum. "We decided to get even more involved, so bought some shares using the money from the sale of Hibiscus," Bosi told The Caterer in 2016.
Bosi negotiated an equal third stake of Bibendum with Conran and his business partner Michael Hamlyn and got his name on the door - Bosi at Bibendum. In addition, the chef runs the Swan Inn near Esher, a 55-cover gastropub with luxury rooms, with his brother, Cedric. Their former gastopub, the Fox & Grapes in Wimbledon, won the Menu of the Year Catey in 2011 for its traditional British food.
The Catey judges admired Bosi's bravery in putting every penny he had into Bibendum, on a lesser share than he had at Hibiscus, in pursuit of three Michelin stars.
Ever-present in the kitchen, Bosi's direct and balanced style is viewed as ground-breaking. His cooking combines classical French skills with modern trends, in an evolutionary rather than revolutionary way. Frogs' legs, sweetbreads and "his mum's" tripe and cuttlefish gratin sit proudly on the menu alongside technically brilliant vacherins.
The judges praised his single-mindedness to reach the pinnacle of cuisine and described his cooking as the food that young chefs in the top kitchens across the UK most admire.
Critics, too, sing the praise of his evolved style that gives simplicity star billing, his down-to-earth touches, and his use of ingredient pairings that break the mould.
Few would be surprised if a third star were to follow shortly.
What the judges said
"A brilliant year for Claude. He is delivering exciting, technically brilliant cooking and, more than anything, he's matured."
"I've watched Claude develop over the years I've known him, not only as a great chef, but also as a human being. The passion, focus, maturity and humility he has displayed and the risks he took in opening his restaurant are truly inspiring."
"Unnoticed charity work matched with a desire for passion in hospitality and food."
"A brilliant technical chef who is creative and constantly refining his food."
Paul Ainsworth No 6, Padstow, Cornwall
Claude Bosi Claude Bosi at Bibendum, London
Nathan Outlaw Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Port Isaac, Cornwall
Peter Sanchez-Iglesias Casamia, Bristol
Andrew Wong A Wong, London
Jason Atherton The Social Company
Sat Bains Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham
Giovanna Grossi Advisor, AA Hotel Services
Tom Kerridge The Hand & Flowers, Marlow, Buckinghamshire
Richard Vines Chief food critic, Bloomberg
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