“It’s a profession of sharing”, chef Yves Camdeborde hangs up his apron


Yves Camdeborde, August 31, 2005, in his then new establishment: the Comptoir du Relais.

Joe Ray/AFP

You sold the Relais Saint-Germain hotel and your Comptoir du Relais restaurant, which opened in the 6th arrondissement of Paris in 2005. How do you feel?

It’s a very important page in my career that is turning. I ran the hotel…

Yves Camdeborde, August 31, 2005, in his then new establishment: the Comptoir du Relais.


Yves Camdeborde, August 31, 2005, in his then new establishment: the Comptoir du Relais.

Joe Ray/AFP

You sold the Relais Saint-Germain hotel and your Comptoir du Relais restaurant, which opened in the 6th arrondissement of Paris in 2005. How do you feel?

It’s a very important page in my career that is turning. I ran the hotel and the Comptoir for eighteen years. From a small neighborhood café, we have turned it into a very lively gastronomic meeting place. We worked an average of 300 covers per day. It was quite an incredible human and professional adventure. I keep the Avant-comptoirs. They are three in Paris and one in Bordeaux.

Why leave now?

I started working when I was 14. I’m soon 58. I don’t miss a pay slip, except my year in the army. I had set myself the goal of doing three or four more years, until the Rugby World Cup in Paris. And then Bruno Doucet, who had already bought La Régalade in 2004 (Editor’s note: his previous restaurant), asked me to perpetuate this cooking philosophy. It will take the pressure off me. That of always wanting to do well, of always renewing oneself. When you have 80 employees, there is also financial pressure. The confinement was also a trigger. I realized that simply cooking with family or for friends on a fairly regular basis was enough to fulfill this passion for cooking.

The family table has also grown…

I have been with my new girlfriend for ten years. We just had a baby girl who is 21 months old. I have already been a father four times before but there is a desire to share things even more deeply. And then I aspire to a life a little more thoughtful, a little less fiery. Although I loved it! There, I want to ask myself a little bit.

You served your last service on June 30. What was the mood like?

It’s a lot, a lot of nostalgia. It was very hard to tell the staff. I did it fifteen days before leaving. There are a lot of employees who have ten, fifteen or eighteen in the house. So I felt there was a disappointment. There were some tears. I told them: everything I am is partly thanks to you. There will be someone else after me, then it will be your turn. Don’t take this as a betrayal. It’s normal, it’s life.

If there was one memory left of the Comptoir?

There are thousands of them. Like when we awarded the Monkey Prize (for Sing’Germain) to Jean-Paul Belmondo. It was quite an extraordinary evening. He had brought all his old friends from the music hall and the cinema. We really felt a friendship, a deep love. And they opened up to everyone around them too. I also remember François Hollande, who had come to eat in the hotel lounge with all his ministers. We saw a president totally different from what we could see on TV. He became a regular customer thereafter. Rugby coach Fabien Galthié came with Montpellier after the defeat in the final of the French championship. They arrived at 6 o’clock in the morning. It was a very very rugby atmosphere, but with incredible respect. They had recognition of the work we had done for them when we were so proud to receive it. It is a profession of sharing.

Do you have a restoration project in Béarn?

No, I won’t set up a business. But I could cook occasionally, for friends or events.

Yves Camdeborde in front of the Régalade.


Yves Camdeborde in front of the Régalade.

Christian Daumerie

Yves Camdeborde in front of the Régalade, in the 14th arrondissement of Paris.


Yves Camdeborde in front of the Régalade, in the 14th arrondissement of Paris.

Jacques Ballarin

We talk a lot about “bistronomy”. Do you claim this designation?

In 1992, with La Régalade, I did what I wanted to do: haute cuisine accessible to as many people as possible. Let it not be pompous and embarrassing for people. A few years later, Sébastien Demorand (Editor’s note: culinary critic who died in 2020) told me: “you do bistronomy because it is between the bistro and gastronomy”. I tried to do in a contemporary way what we could find in village inns where the mayor, the worker and the doctor were able to sit around a table. This is what we had near our home, in Pau, with the Berry.

In 1992 you launched the restaurant La Régalade, with a full menu at 100 francs. Is it still possible to make popular and accessible cuisine?

Yes. Even if it remains a budget. It is possible to make a menu at 50 euros including aperitif, starter, main course, cheese, dessert, coffee and digestive as well as a bottle of wine for two.

Yves Camdeborde in the kitchens of La Régalade.


Yves Camdeborde in the kitchens of La Régalade.

Daniel Bardo

How has your menu changed in twenty years?

In the past, for a starter, we would have put 120 grams of squid, accommodated with 30 grams of vegetables. Today we would make an ink risotto for 100 grams. We would fry the squid with garlic and parsley but only 50 grams. Because it is animal protein that has increased. It is she who raises the price of a plate.

You were present at the last agricultural show, where you gave a committed speech on foie gras…

One would have to wonder if we have not gone too far in the overproduction of this product. We must regulate as we regulate the fishing of scallops. We have seen how pork has been destabilized in Brittany. Poultry is a disaster. Overproduction implies that animal abuse comes into play, but also antibiotic treatments or excessive force-feeding to produce quickly. It would be necessary to find peasant common sense. Let’s stop eating animal protein every day but twice a week.

Yves Camdeborde speaking with Pierre Berbizier.


Yves Camdeborde speaking with Pierre Berbizier.

Jean Jacques Saubi

What are your projects ?

I have five books due out by 2024. There’s one on Jean Gabin’s life at the table, another on cookbooks since the 16th century. I collect a lot: I have more than 3,000 cookbooks. Another book will be on the banquets that have marked the history of rugby.

One of the banquets will concern the Pau Section, which do you support?

Yes of course. There will be one.

And television?

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