“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 2005 in Paris’ 6th arrondissement. How do you feel?

It’s a very important turning point in my career. 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 2005 in Paris’ 6th arrondissement. How do you feel?

It’s a very important turning point in my career. 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 processed an average of 300 covers per day. It’s been quite an incredible human and professional adventure. I keep the Avant comptoirs. They are three in Paris and one in Bordeaux.

why go now

I started working when I was 14. I am almost 58 years old. I don’t miss a paycheck, except for my year in the army. I had set myself the goal of driving another three or four years until the Rugby World Cup in Paris. And then Bruno Doucet, who had already bought La Régalade (editor’s note: his previous restaurant) in 2004, asked me to continue this cooking philosophy. That will take the pressure off me. Always wanting to be good, always wanting to renew. With 80 employees, there is also financial pressure. Detention was also a trigger. I realized that regular cooking with family or friends is enough to fulfill this cooking passion.

The family table has also grown…

I’ve been with my new girlfriend for ten years. We have just had a little girl who is 21 months old. I’ve been a father four times, but there’s a desire to share things even more deeply. And then I strive for a little more contemplative, a little less fiery life. Although I loved it! I want to ask myself a little bit about that.

Your last shift is on the 30th. How was the mood?

It’s lots and lots of nostalgia. It was very difficult to tell the staff. I did it fifteen days before I left. There are many employees who have ten, fifteen or eighteen in the house. So I felt there was a disappointment. A few tears flowed. I told them: everything I am I owe in part to you. Someone comes after me, then it’s your turn. Don’t take that as a betrayal. It’s normal, it’s life.

If there was a memory of the Comptoir?

There are thousands of them. Like when we gave Jean-Paul Belmondo the Monkey Prize (for Sing’Germain). It was a very 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 the hotel lounge to eat with all his ministers. We saw a President who was completely different from what we could see on TV. After that he became a regular customer. Rugby coach Fabien Galthié took Montpellier to the French Championship final after losing. They arrived at 6am. It was a very, very rugby atmosphere but with incredible respect. They received recognition for the work we had done for them when we were so proud of it. It is a profession of sharing.

Do you have a restoration project in the Béarn?

No, I will not start 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 that designation?

In 1992 I did what I wanted with La Régalade: make haute cuisine accessible to as many people as possible. Don’t let it be pompous and embarrassing for people. A few years later, Sébastien Demorand (editor’s note: culinary critic who died in 2020) said to me: “You do bistronomy because it’s somewhere between bistro and gastronomy”. I tried to make contemporary what we could find in village inns where the mayor, the worker and the doctor could sit around a table. We had that near our home in Pau with the Berry.

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

Yes. Even if it stays within budget. It is possible to prepare a menu for 50 euros including an aperitif, starter, main course, cheese, dessert, coffee and digestif and a bottle of wine for two people.

Yves Camdeborde in the kitchens at La Régalade.


Yves Camdeborde in the kitchens at La Régalade.

Daniel Bardo

How has your menu changed in twenty years?

In the past we would have served 120 grams of squid with 30 grams of vegetables as a starter. 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 gained weight. It is she who raises the price of a plate.

You were present at the last agricultural show, where you gave an engaging lecture on foie gras…

One has to wonder if we haven’t gone too far in overproducing this product. We need to regulate how we regulate scallop fishing. We have seen pork destabilized in Brittany. Poultry is a disaster. Overproduction means 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 and eat it twice a week.

Yves Camdeborde in conversation with Pierre Berbizier.


Yves Camdeborde in conversation with Pierre Berbizier.

Jean Jacques Saubi

What are your projects?

I have five books to be published by 2024. One about Jean Gabin’s life at the table, another about cookbooks since the 16th century. I collect a lot: I have more than 3,000 cookbooks. Another book will be about the banquets that shaped the history of rugby.

One of the banquets concerns the Pau section, which ones do you support?

Yes of course. there will be one

And watch TV?

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