Interview with Chef Guy Savoy of Restaurant Guy Savoy — Las Vegas, NV

July 2008

Antoinette Bruno: Why did you start cooking? What or who inspired you to become a chef?
Guy Savoy: My mother gave me confidence in the kitchen. She taught me the magic of transformation – how to take seasonal ingredients and “turn them into pleasure.” My mother helped me discover my passion and inspired me to become a chef. She taught me how to transform products by adding salt and pepper to create a dish. I remember my mother making “langue de chat” cookies on a winter’s night when I was a child. She blended flour and sugar together and produced this crunchy pleasure. It was amazing.

AB: Which early job position and/or restaurant do you feel was most influential in shaping your culinary style and business philosophy? Is Pierre Troisgros your mentor?
GS: After my mother, it’s Pierre Troisgros. I feel that as a chef, one should continue to learn everyday. Working with Pierre Troisgros was a big change from cooking with my mother. We used different products that I had never used like foie gras. The biggest lesson is to take pleasure from working with a team – it’s very important to my style. The most important thing that I learned under Troisgros was the rigor of working as part of a team. My mission is to create one single team between the front and the back of the house. This is my true spirit.

AB: When did you start working as a father-son team? What are the benefits with having family on both sides of the house?
Franck Savoy: When I was a little boy I started out in the kitchen, prepping, washing dishes. After that I didn’t want to work in the restaurant business, so I went to learn about hotels. I love watching people enjoy themselves and I’ve always wanted to be in the front of the house. My dad suggested that I join him in the front of the house 3 years ago. He wanted me to understand what was involved in opening a restaurant, so the opening of Guy Savoy in Las Vegas was my training. It was the first non-hotel leadership position that I had been in (although I did help to open another restaurant).

AB: What are the benefits to having family in both front and back of the house?
GS: Our goal is to give pleasure to our guests. We both do this in complementary roles. We are very close.

AB: What is your formula for success?
GS: The guests have to tell us that.
FS: I learned and watched, and I’ve grown up in this business just like my father did with his mother. I learned the spirit of Guy Savoy from Guy, and took it from Paris and transplanted an exact replica in Las Vegas.
GS: It’s in the blood and in the heart.

AB: What are the challenges of working together as father and son?
GS: I don’t think there are that many challenges, as it is not possible to have two bosses in the same place. Therefore I must trust Franck.
FS: I have taught Guy things about management here as well. We are learning from each other. He is old-fashioned in his management style – I bring new ideas.
GS: I know Franck and I trust him. I know he is capable – I’m not worried.

AB: You have been a mentor to so many chefs. Who are some of your brightest protégé’s?
GS: Richard Ekkebus, Gordon Ramsay, Damien Dulas, and all that currently work at Guy Savoy.

AB: You’ve received many awards including three stars from the Michelin guide, Gault Millau Chef of the Year and an entry in the Larousse Gastronomique. In 2000, the French Agricultural Minister awarded you the Legion d’ Honneur. Which meant the most to you?
GS: The day I got my driver’s license, because it was a synonymous with freedom. I then bought a 2 horsepower Citroen and drove to Turkey. Also when I received my third Michelin star in 2000 it was like an Olympic medal for my team and I.

AB: Is there a place you travel to for culinary research?
GS: There’s no country that inspires me – it’s the time right now that inspires me. I have a garden in the south of France where I find all my inspiration.

AB: What is your most indispensable kitchen tool? Why?
GS: A fourchette diapason. It’s a meat fork with two prongs that looks like a tuning fork. It’s my third hand – with it I can turn poultry, fish, meat, etc. My second most indispensable tool is a spoon for tasting.

AB: How did you choose your executive chef, Damien Dulas, to cook at your Las Vegas restaurant? How long will he stay in Vegas?
GS: I chose him for his technique because he has a “Guy Savoy mind.” He has been at Guy Savoy Paris for 4 years. I’d like to have him in Vegas for as long as possible.

AB: I was served many things on spoons in Vegas. Do you serve them in Paris? What was the inspiration behind the spoons?
GS: Yes we do. It’s a way for the guest to follow the cook and have the same experience!

AB: What advice would you give to aspiring young cooks?
GS: The first thing is to learn the French classics – the basics of cuisine. Afterwards, they should do a cuisine that they want to eat and that they love. They should cook as if they were cooking at home – with heart.

AB: What is your favorite interview question?
GS: “What is your passion outside of the kitchen?” Everyone has a passion and I want to know what it is.

AB: What is your favorite restaurant off the beaten path?
GS: Sardegna a Tavola in the 12th arrondissement of Paris. The baby pig and baby goat are the best.

AB: You’ve opened restaurants in Paris and Las Vegas. What’s next for you?
GS: For now it’s enough. In a few years the next step is cooking again but we don’t know where yet.