Chef Michel Bras’ biography is deceptively short and for one good reason: this master of “la cuisine du terroir” never left his territory. Unlike so many other chefs of his caliber, influence, and generation, Bras never found a good enough reason to leave his beloved Aubrac. There are no apprenticeships, no stages, no other restaurants to list under his name. He is a self–taught and self–made man.
Bras was born to a blacksmith–father and chef–mother in Gabriac in 1946. He schooled in a nearby town and from an early age started helping his mother, a Cordon Bleu–trained chef, tend her pots at the family’s hotel/restaurant Lou Mazuc. Bras credits his mother with introducing him to the cuisine of Aubrac—a region in central southern France that he describes as lacking any “specific gastronomical virtue unlike other regions.” His childhood was filled with delicious memories of his mother’s cooking, making simple ingredients taste extraordinary, and a deep respect for Aubrac.
Though Bras never left the Lou Mazuc kitchen to train elsewhere, he studied culinary literature, philosophy, and photography with zeal. He cooked and created from his intuition, as he does to this day. When Bras was 33 years old, he took over the inn from his parents. His innovative cooking caught the attention of famed French restaurant guide Gault et Millau; Lou Mazuc was awarded two Michelin stars under his guise.
Bras’ passionate pursuit to connect his cuisine to nature—thus to “create a restaurant in the middle of nature”—led him to open hotel/restaurant Michel Bras in 1992. The ultra–modern structure is built of nearly all glass with slate and granite, and sits on a plateau overlooking the landscape of Aubrac. Bras was awarded with three Michelin stars in 1999. Bras, now joined by his son, who is gradually taking the helm of the kitchen, renamed his restaurant Bras Michel & Sébastien in 2003.
In addition to his culinary quests at his inn, Bras has published several books under his name, including the seminal 2002 cookbook Essential Cuisine (for which Bras took all the photos); he was the subject of the DVD series “Inventing Cuisine: Michel Bras” by Paul Lacoste. Bras also opened an eponymous restaurant in the Windsor Hotel Toya in Hokkaido, Japan in 2002, and designed a series of knives by the Japanese manufacturer KAI, released in 2005.