The legendary L’O à la Bouche restaurant has established itself as one of Tahiti’s finest restaurants. Rigorous and consistent, chef and founder Jean-Charles Lallemand shared his story, his career and his passion with us. He answers questions from Chefs de Tahiti :
- How did your career in the kitchen begin?
I followed a more or less conventional route. I started out in the Paris region in a hotel school with a BTH (baccalauréat technologique Sciences et Technologies de l’Hôtellerie-Restauration) specializing in cooking. I then went on to take a BTS (Brevet Technicien Supérieur) in Hotel Management, with a catering option. In the end, 5 years of school in the 90s, with a very academic training. At the age of 20, I finished my studies and decided to join my parents in Tahiti, who were already living there at the time. Arriving in Tahiti, I threw myself into the kitchen of the newly opened Morrisson’s Café. It wasn’t until 1995 that I landed the opportunity to join forces and open L’O à la Bouche. I was 24.
- What are your inspirations, your culinary style, your gastronomic universe?
Classic French! Although slightly outdated, French gastronomy still appeals to many palates. L’O à la Bouche has evolved on this wave. Beyond French cuisine, I’m particularly fond of Japanese and South American cuisine. I like to work with local fish. The Fenua lagoon is so rich, it makes your mouth water (laughs)!
- What kind of chef are you?
I prefer simplicity and rigor in my cooking. When I left school, I had to structure and organize myself. I was a fairly serious student at school and today I apply all the precepts of the classic cuisine that I love.
L’O à la Bouche is a well-structured team of 15 people, most of them Polynesian, some of whom have been with me for more than 10 or even 15 years. My role is to keep an eye on everyone, to be straightforward, directive, punctual and present. I attach great importance to each of these points, especially the last. Indeed, I’ve hardly ever missed a service so far. Personally, I’m not very talkative, but I prefer to teach by doing… You have to show, check and correct; hence the importance of being present.
- How do you see the restaurant business evolving?
Cooking is changing fast, and so is our job! I’ve come to realize over the last (almost) 30 years that you have to keep up with the times. I love new technologies and I also use the Internet a lot, which has now replaced our books. We have wide access to information, and we need to use it. I inform myself a lot so as not to become “ has been” (laughs). Thanks also to the new technologies in the kitchen, which make our lives easier and the job more regular in terms of quality.
- What does being a Tahitian chef mean to you?
It’s my pleasure! Chef in Tahiti, surrounded by my team, that’s my pleasure. I love my brigade! I’m not Polynesian, but I’ve spent my life here, so it’s really my adopted country. Thank you Fenua, thank you Chefs de Tahiti!