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Le Chevillard

Concept for:

- medium budget

- big budget

- in trouble

- the countryside

Alcohol abuse is dangerous for health. To consume with moderation.

For your health, eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables a day.

What the French call a « chevillard » is a profession which has practically disappeared. The chevillard was a small meat wholesaler who was permitted to slaughter the animals he bought. The chevillards were reputed to supply the best meat because they often handpicked the cattle, caves and pigs on the farms they visited. Which is why it struck me as a suitable name for a concept of a top quality meat restaurant- as opposed to the well-known chains of carvery steakhouses we all know. But needless to say, if you choose this concept you can name it as you wish.

Many of the concepts I’ve described are very modern and sometimes call for ready-made produce, indeed it has become a part of how we cook. However, there is a tendency towards a return to traditional cuisine with emphasis on quality. And deep-down that is where my own heart lies (believe it or not).

I have a winning proposition to put to you. You have a large scope when choosing the location and the size of your restaurant. Basically, you’ll need a catchment area of at least 100,000 inhabitants either in a large town centre or on the outskirts. You could even set up this type of restaurant in the country provided you’re sure of making a satisfactory turnover during the week. In the evenings and at weekends you’ll become a choice restaurant to which people flock from far and wide. Whichever location you choose I must underline the importance of drawing in large business clientele. If you happen to own a traditional-type restaurant whose business is flagging, may be this concept is the solution for you.

You’ll need to seat between 60 and 110 people so you need to plan big. Don’t squeeze the tables in, not in this type of concept. It would be an advantage to have lots of floor space, even on two levels, so you could partition off some private dining areas. Not only do certain business deals require discretion but also it can make all the difference to be able to invite an important client to dine privately. Local businessmen/women and politicians would greatly appreciate such a facility. Boasting private dining areas would lend a certain up market feeling to your restaurant. Your reputation for the excellent quality of your meat would also guarantee to attract group bookings from local clubs and associations.

Regarding layout and decoration, aim for tasteful but not fussy – take inspiration from the well-known up-market restaurants. Above all, avoid anything that remotely calls to mind those commercial steakhouse carvery chains. I already mentioned spacing the tables, and do try to allow enough space for the waiting staff to comfortably wheel serving trolleys between tables.

I’ll now turn my attention to the menu and more so than for my other concepts this is the corner-stone of your success. I’ll start with the main courses as this is what will define your restaurant, the main course is what will make your restaurant a landmark.

Everything hinges on the excellent quality of the meat served and how it is prepared using tried and tested recipes. Without a doubt, beef will be the highlight of the menu. With all the different breeds of cattle on offer, why cook only one or two sorts? Remember, you are focusing on providing top quality meat and each type of beef lends itself best to certain preparations. Let me explain.

Limousin cattle are a smaller breed than Charolais and therefore are better suited for a nice thick entrecote; Irish beef bleeds very little and is therefore ideal for stews and casseroles or prepared as a tartare (the only way to prepare it if you ask me!). Bavarian and Swiss Simmental breeds offer absolutely cannot miss out on the wonderful Angus (Scottish, not Irish) which give us superb filets, rump steak and T-bones steaks. I like the blond Aquitaine for an “onglet” but it seems the Normande is just as good. As for the unbeatable “araignée”, choose a stockier breed such as Charolais or Hereford (hard to find).

Proceed in the same way when sourcing your pork, veal and lamb. Finding good quality lamb and veal isn’t too difficult but, on the other hand, good quality pork is harder to come by.

Veal from the Aveyron has a good reputation and will do the trick. Choose preferably French or Spanish lamb.

Speaking as a Frenchman, I can honestly say that I can’t boast about our national pork production. Of course, there are always a few exceptions such as the pork produced in the Basque region which is of excellent quality but remains too expensive as it is only produced on a small scale. We are starting to find some smaller holdings producing quality pork. I recently discovered Gatinais outdoor-reared pork which is quite remarkable by French standards. If you have trouble finding decent pork, try the fail-proof Iberian pork, or even Swiss pork although the latter is hard to source outside Switzerland.

Perhaps your (or your chef’s) tastes and opinions differ from mine but the one thing you must remember is that you have to offer your customers the right balance using the different types of meat and their suitability for preparing each recipe.

That is how you will be reputed as an outstanding expert in meat, a far cry from what the usual carveries have to offer. From time to time vary your menu.

One last word of advice about choosing your meat: butchers don’t necessarily give the best advice. These well-meaning folk tend to extol the virtues of whatever meat they’re trying to sell-well, they’re only human. What’s more, butchers often haven’t a clue about cooking! No doubt you have often witnessed, while in line at the butcher’s, a housewife asking for advice on how to cook the meat she is buying and the butcher gives her some foolish answer that anyone with any basic know-how know is total nonsense! What can you expect from people who still insist upon barding roast beef, which only stops you from searing the meat and hence alters its taste. Then again, it is profitable to sell a piece of useless bard at same price as fillet of beef…

Enough about choosing meat, let’s talk about how to cook it, because in this concept you’re really going to have to cook (unlike many sorts of modern catering). And when I say cooking I don’t mean using food to simply decorate plates, as one often sees in certain pseudo-gastronomic restaurants. Your food must be sumptuous, this is a restaurant you’re opening, not an art gallery! Simplicity, sobriety and accuracy are what you are aiming for on the plate.

You will have to put some sort of grilled meat on the menu to keep those who are counting the calories happy (satisfied by the offer they’ll probably order something else anyway). But what you’ll really need to offer is good traditional cooking, giving pride of place to the great classical recipes that have made gastronomic history. The old French favorites such as:

-entrecote marchand de vin,

-entrecote bordelaise,

-onglet in a shallot sauce,

-escalope of veal normand,

-rack of lamb in Pau sauce (Paloise),

-charcutière-style pork chops,

-thick veal chops “au sautoir” (for two people),

-foie gras poêlé (fried)

-rib of beef stroganov,

-veal à la Zurichoise,

-rib of veal with morels, ….

There is a broad range of classics to choose from and ten or twelve will constitute the core of your menu.

If you happen to have enough space for serving trolleys and some competent waiting staff, the excellent steak au poivre (creamed, with veal stock added, then served flambé in front of the customer) will raise you miles above the places which serve their pepper sauce out of the a packet.

Another way of highlighting the quality of your meat and the different ways of preparing it is to compile a menu of tartars. Yours being an authentic restaurant, your tartars will , of course, be very finely chopped by hand. Apart from the usual recipes for “boeuf tartare”, you’ll offer variants on the theme (I, for example, you could also propose a tartare made from the onglet steak (this is Joel Robuchon’s favorite).

But you won’t settle for only beef tartars, you could also offer veal tartars and one or two duck tartars. Let me remind you that the original recipe uses horse-meat so if you can find a supplier guaranteeing freshness you’ll surely have some takers amongst your clientele.

In this concept it is only right that offal has its place on the menu, because offal too has its fans. Kidneys, liver, sweetbreads, calf-heads, pig trotters, pork or beef cheeks all contribute to some delicious recipes. There are many ways to prepare tripe, indeed your customers may discover this dish for the first time in your restaurant. You could also have a few “lyonnaiseries” (specialties from Lyon) on the menu. Finally, don’t forget to include a nice A.A.A.A.A. andouillette, careful how you prepare it, don’t even dream of grilling it!

For the day’s specials menu you could propose a few stews or casseroles using seasonal ingredients such as a lentil stew (petit salé), ham braised in red wine, daube, navarin d’agneau (lamb stew), pot-au-feu (beef stew).

Homemade chips are a must but a gratin dauphinois also strikes me as essential. You’ll need to serve French beans and tagliatelli when the dish is sauce-based.

As for the first course, stick to your theme. Foie gras is a must, prepared in two or three different ways. The highlight of your starters will be the charcuterie, a selection of cold meats (usually pork). When choosing your selection, take a look at Corsican, Spanish and Italian specialities. A good way to personalize the menu is to create some wonderful homemade terrines.

Always have three or four sorts that you can rotate on the menu. A good terrine really makes a difference.  They’re simple to make and the ingredients are often inexpensive. You really must have some excellent homemade rillettes too-again, really cheap to make and a big success with the customers. You present your terrines, pâtés, rillettes on a trolley accompanied by cornichons (gherkins), pickled onions and perhaps an onion relish. Give generous helpings.  To complete your starter menu you could have bone – marrow served with toast and thinly sliced Colonatta lard on toast –really excellent!

You’ll need at least three sorts of salad, one quite light and leafy, a lentil salad with lardons, a nice potato salad in a mustard dressing with chopped beef cheek, parsley, shallots and chives. You will, of course, have a cheese board.

As for desserts, stick to the old favorites: profiteroles, crème brûlée, peach melba are always in demand. You could also have a dessert trolley with a selection of tarts and pastries. Even if you don’t make them, make sure you choose top quality produce.

Keep your wine-list short with a little of everything, source some nice little wines that give good value for money. Don’t forget, you’ll need a few robust white wines to go with your charcuterie. Have a good selection of wine sold by the glass.

Which brings me to your pricing policy. Your restaurant will be, because of its nature, quite expensive. So if you want to succeed and build up a good custom, be reasonable. Don’t calculate prices using those ridiculous ratios which were devised by hotel owners. Be sensible! Increase your profit margin on the products which cost less and go easy on the pricier ingredients. Don’t even think of multiplying the price of the wine by four when compiling your wine-list; you want to attract customers, not send the running!

For the lunch-time diners, I’d advice a special lunch-time formula and a broad menu with plenty of choice. When launching your restaurant, invite everyone who counts to an opening cocktail party: local dignitaries, politicians, professionals, business men/women, shop-owners, followed by advertising in the local press and the chamber of commerce magazine. If you can afford it hire a press agent who’ll do all the work for you. Now you have all the know-how to get your business up and  running. Use it to the best of your ability!


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