The American chef tells all about his recent hospitality experience.
After a recent trip to Paris with his wife, Charlie Palmer decided to write what he calls a “love letter” to Le Bristol Paris—a circa 1925 luxury boutique hotel located in walking distance from iconic monuments such as the Grand Palais exhibition hall and the ancient Egyptian Luxor Obelisk. Read on for the chef’s experience at the hotel and the hospitality culture he fell in love with—from the impeccable service to the onsite restaurant, Epicure.
Le Bristol, by its own definition, is one of the grand hotels of the world—one of those palaces that only exists in certain cities, incredibly polished with a certain rich smell. There’s much discussion today about living in a more casual, dressed-down world, and I thought it would be an interesting juxtaposition to tell my experience at Le Bristol.
The rooms are, of course, spectacular with huge baths, more closets than you can fill (or at least more than I can—I travel light), fresh flowers every day, abundant fruit bowls, and special touches like pressing in under an hour. But what truly sets this hotel apart is every single employee we came into contact with understands what hospitality really is. Like the bellman, who had a glass of water waiting for me after a morning run down the Champs Elysees, or the chief concierge, who secured reservations for us at a completely booked restaurant.
We all know there’s incredible food and so many amazing places to experience in Paris, especially for someone who has centered their entire life around cooking and restaurants. The hotel’s director, Didier Le Calvez, insisted we dine at Epicure while we were there. It was truly a classic Parisian experience—from the moment the restaurant manager, Frederic Kaiser, welcomed us to the restaurant, to when Chef Eric Frechon visited the table to propose a tasting menu, and even while we were joking with our captain about his cool glasses.
The food was one of the most remarkable meals I have experienced, and that does say something. From the amuse (foie gras mousse with watercress; walnut parmesan; tiny snail) paired with the Grange des Peres Chardonnay, to the squab, roasted and crusted with a pine nut crumble and paired with a ’99 Côte Rotie.
The pastry chef Laurent Jeannin blew me away with the lightest frozen lemon sphere filled with pear. When paired with sparkling pear cider, it dissolved in the mouth and brought out intense citrus flavor. We finished with rounds of perfect mignardises, like chocolates and warm savory madeleines.
Le Bristol, for me, is inspirational. Since returning to the United States and going back to the job I love, my direction and coaching to all our team members, in both the restaurants and hotels, is to grow our hospitality culture. The culture that Le Bristol has nurtured in Paris is unparalleled. Staying at Le Bristol is a privilege. Yes, an expensive one, but worth every euro.
My advice: Save your money, plan ahead, and plunge into experiencing the very best with the friendliest and most hospitable professionals in Paris.