After many years spent shuttling between his native Basque Country and Paris, Chef Sébastien Gravé decided not to choose and opened two restaurants ! One in Paris – Pottoka, and one in Bayonne – La Table de Pottoka. For both places, he hand-picks his suppliers. Via their carefully crafted products and his “simplified haute cuisine”, every day he pays tribute to his Basque roots.
The last of seven children, Chef Sébastien Gravé has always known the pleasures of sharing a meal with friends and family around a large table. With one of his brothers a cook and another one a pastry chef, he very early « donned a chef’s outfit – first for the school’s carnival parade in [his] hometown of La Bastide Clairance », and then in a more serious context at the Biarritz catering school.
A career rich in meaningful encounters
After learning pastry with his brother, he became an apprentice under the mentorship of Patrice Dumangel, the Michelin-starred chef of Hotel Miramar in Biarritz.
“This professional experience was truly essential: Patrice Dumangel was able to motivate and empower me. A very kind mentor, he passed to me his vision of cuisine and acted as a father who protected as much as he nurtured.”
As he felt like standing on his own two feet, he moved to Paris, where he first worked at Restaurant Laurent (two Michelin stars), then alongside Chef Joël Robuchon, for whom he took part in the opening of Les Ateliers de Robuchon, and the TV show “Bon Appétit bien sûr”.
But he missed his beloved Basque Country, and he moved back to Biarritz, at Hôtel du Palais, where he met his wife, who longed to work… in Paris, of all places!
Back in Paris, Sébastien met a chef who also was to play a key part in his career: Christian Constant. In addition to his permanent position at Hotel George V (three Michelin stars, Paris 8), he occasionally worked in Constant’s other restaurants, and ended up being appointed sous-chef of his Michelin-starred restaurant Le Violon d’Ingres (one Michelin star, Paris 7). “With this fantastic manager, this life coach who knows perfectly how to put the right people in the right places and how to support and lead the people working with him, I took over Les Tables de La Fontaine. After six months, we were awarded a Michelin star.”
A cuisine that spotlights and honors the Basque Country
Far from being starstruck, Sébastien Gravé never forgot his beloved Basque Country.
Convinced that “everything is a matter of meetings and special moments”, he chooses to cook products from his Basque homeland and to select his suppliers according to highly subjective criteria, such as “a long friendship or an instant crush”, or to more objective ones of quality and respect of traditions.
For this he meets, visits, and works with numerous single-product suppliers for his strawberries, pigeons, eggs, Espelette peppers, etc – “it is a real challenge in terms of logistics and accounting, but the rewards in terms of human encounters and customer satisfaction are fantastic.”
The ubiquitous Eric Ospital, the traditional Basque pork butcher who “loves the pig” as much as Sébastien does, is of course one of his suppliers, but he is also very proud of his latest partnership, with Bastidarra, a small-scale dairy. This Basque company is the gathering of three dairy farms committed to Haute Valeur Environnementale, the highest standard for quality and sustainability, and processes milk with a traditional, natural and non-standardised approach.
Chef works with master craftsmen
The owner, Hubert Candelé, wanted to create “dessert-like yoghurts, with cow or sheep milk,” which instantly appealed to Chef Sébastien Gravé. This was the beginning of a triangular cooperation between a traditional dairy farmer, a chef, and a master jam maker. This gave birth to “Les Douceurs d’Ekia”, luscious yoghurts made with cow or sheep milk, mixed with blueberry-and-Menton lemon, raspberry-and-mango, or strawberry-and-mint jams. Sold in glass containers, they are now available in France’s best dairy and cheese shops, at La Grande Epicerie de Paris, and at Café Constant (Paris 7).
The common point between all these suppliers is a rich and colourful land: the Basque Country, with its green pastures, blue Ocean, snow-capped mountains and the red scarves locals wear on every occasion. Plus, for some, a special sport that takes pride in its unique values: rugby. Chef Sébastien Gravé’s restaurants are actually named after a horse breed that can only be found in the Basque Country, and that is also the name of the mascot of Aviron Bayonnais rugby club: Pottoka.
Team spirit, courage, commitment, respect, generosity – those are the values Chef Sébastien Gravé got from his 10 years playing rugby in Hasparren, and the ones he implements today, in the kitchen of his two restaurants, in Paris and in Bayonne.
- 1994 : Biarritz catering school
Apprenticeship at Hotel Miramar in Biarritz (1 Michelin star) under Chef Patrice Demangel
- 1999 : Restaurant Laurent (two Michelin stars) in Paris
- 2002 : Hotel du Palais, Biarritz. Meets his wife
- 2007 : Chef at Fables de La Fontaine. Gets his first Michelin star
- 2011 : Opens his own restaurant : Pottoka, Paris
- 2015 : Opens La Table de Pottoka in Bayonne
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