Published 13 January 2021
As a Michelin-starred chef who has worked in some of the best restaurants in the world, opening a diner is different to anything Éric Chavot has ever done before. Here he shares more about launching Mo Diner, aligning visions with Mourad Mazouz and why he enjoys working in hospitality.
It’s definitely been an unusual one! From early January we worked on choosing the suppliers, recruitment, creating the recipes, menu, etc. We started work on the prep in early Feb and opened on the 26th. We had been open on just 16 days. To get all geared up to open, to then lockdown, to gear up again, to lockdown again is very difficult ….We just have to make the most of the time we’re closed to fine tune the areas we want to tweak and improve on.
The concept of a diner is very different from anything I’ve done before and it’s liberating not to be restricted by preconceptions of what we should be doing and how. We can be as creative as we want to be….and it’s good to challenge myself into finding alternative methods of preparation and cooking that produce the same great tastes and quality within the confines of a diner (a smaller kitchen, a smaller team, faster flow).
At its very core though MoDiner is the same as the best restaurants I’ve worked in. We’re striving to create the best possible dining experience, the best dishes, a great ambiance, some fun – built on the same high level professionalism and hospitality.
American 1930s diner with a Mediterranean / North African twist. Recognisable yet novel… definitely tasty and great value.
A great review always feels wonderful because it’s so good for the business. I’m really happy for Mourad and the team who have put so much time effort and energy into creating the Diner.
To be honest I’m also relieved….the pen is definitely mightier than the sword and critics have a huge responsibility to be fair honest and review with integrity…a poor review from as influential a critic as Marina will have such a bad effect on business, particularly if soon after opening when a restaurant hasn’t yet created a base of loyal customers. Readers who may have tried it are put off and don’t even give it a chance.
The dishes are much simpler and the combination of American diner with Mediterranean & North African touches is unique. The décor is very different, but there are common threads at the core throughout all of Mourad’s restaurants: QUALITY CREATIVITY and HAPPINESS. The Diner is just as eccentric and funky as Sketch and Derriere. The menu is a ‘simple’ diner but executed just as beautifully.
I joined him for a week in Marrakech at the start of the project for me, and met many of his friends, his family, we visited the markets and many restaurants. It gave me a valuable insight into Mourad and the importance of family, quality, creativity, happiness. It’s a true collaboration of ideas and techniques.
It’s really important to have strong competent senior chefs in each kitchen and that the standards are well documented. There are recipe cards for every element and each dish, so each one is prepared and cooked the same way every time. If Mourad or one of the team thinks something will work better done another way then we discuss it, try it, compare it, but the recipe remains unchanged until we formally change the recipe card.
The senior chefs have to be fully on-board and committed to this because they ensure it cascades down through the rest of the team.
My mother, Chef Lahy and being rejected by the French army! I have fantastic memories of growing up with my mother’s incredible French home-cooking. The heart of our family was the kitchen and our daily Life revolved around what was happening at the stove!
Pre-Covid there were amazing opportunities to travel and work pretty much anywhere in the World. Hopefully when the worse of this Pandemic is over that will be the case again. The comradery, the variety, the challenges, constantly learning and creating, happy customer and good reviews!
(Laughs) Anywhere I don’t have to cook where there’s a genuine welcome and good food. Joking aside… if I had to name just one place, then the hospitality at Sabi Sabi Lodges (in South Africa) was exceptional.
Daube de boeuf with creamy mash. Simply delicious. It reminds me of my childhood so I can’t imagine I’ll ever tire of it.