Executive Chef of the Restaurant de l'Hôtel de Ville at Crissier
" continuing the restaurant's historic tradition "
Franck Giovannini is a Swiss chef. He is the fourth Executive Chef at the Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville in Crissier. In 2017 he was named French Chef of the Year by Gault & Millau.
In 1989 Franck Giovannini completed his apprenticeship at L’Auberge de la Couronne, in Apples in the Canton of Vaud, alongside Chef Claude Joseph. In 1993 he moved to Canada and returned to Switzerland in 1995 where he began working under Frédy Girardet at the Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville in Crissier, as chef de partie.
In 1999 Giovannini headed off to the United States. He returned to Switzerland in 2000. Back in Crissier, he got in touch with Benoît Violier, who had been Executive Chef under Philippe Rochat for a year and who offered him the position of sous-chef at this restaurant where he had already worked. In 2012 Franck Giovannini became Executive Chef when Benoît Violier took over the reins of the Restaurant.
In early 2016, following the death of Chef Benoît Violier, Brigitte Violier confirmed Franck Giovannini’s position as Executive Chef. In October 2016 the Michelin Guide awarded 3 stars to the Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville, making Franck Giovannini the fourth 3-starred chef in Crissier after Girardet, Rochat and Violier.
On 16 August 2018 Franck Giovannini took over from Brigitte Violier at the establishment’s helm. He is thus continuing the restaurant’s historic tradition.
Interview with Franck Giovannini
How old were you when you realised you wanted to be a chef?
I was 15. At first I wanted to be a baker. Cooking - and the idea of eating well, of eating good food - has always appealed to me.
Tell us about your apprenticeship and why you decided to move abroad afterwards.
I was lucky enough to finish my apprenticeship in a small restaurant: with Claude Joseph at the Auberge de la Couronne in Apples near Morges. He had worked under Frédy Girardet, the founder of the “Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville” in Crissier. I learned a lot from him.
Then I wanted to travel, to see the world. I was only 18 at the time. So I went to New York. I had a friend there and I did an apprenticeship with Grey Kunz. He was a former student of Girardet as well.
North America appealed to you. What was it that fascinated you about the region? What did it have to offer in terms of cuisine?
After my time in New York I worked at the Restaurant de l'Hôtel de Ville as chef de partie under Frédy Girardet. I then went to Boston with my girlfriend - who would soon become my wife - because I had a good contact there, a friend I was really close to. I learned a lot there as well. The restaurant was slightly out of the way, in the countryside. I learned about a different culture and how to appreciate local ingredients - especially all the different types of seafood.
You have been working at the Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville in Crissier for 25 years. Can you explain your attachment to this place?
It’s the quality of the restaurant and the team, as well as our customers. I feel I have a connection to it. The restaurant and the cooking have evolved over the last 25 years. A lot of things have happened but the connection, the respect and the family relationship have remained. I was very close to Frédy Girardet, Philippe Rochat and Benoît Violier. 25 years is a long time, yes, but it doesn’t seem long to me.
What makes your cooking stand out? What’s your philosophy?
We have held on to the spirit and soul of this place. We focus on the ingredients and they define our cuisine. We use classic methods, for example we don’t cook at low temperatures, but we are constantly evolving and improving. We work with local ingredients whenever we can, and with ingredients from the neighbouring countries. We don’t go any further afield than that.
You said in an interview that your cooking was modern, simple and understandable, and that you didn’t have much time for gadgets and new-fangled ideas. What does that mean for your recipes?
We work with the best possible ingredients. We don’t try to show off; it’s not about creating a spectacle. We surprise our customers with flavour, not with a spectacle on a plate. But aesthetics are important to us too.
You are the president the Académie Suisse du Bocuse d’Or. What does your work with this organisation involve?
We organise major competitions. My role involves encouraging motivated young chefs to take part in cooking competitions, supporting them and guiding them through the process. It is a tremendous honour, a fantastic job, and one of which I am very proud.
The Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville was named best restaurant in the world in 2019. The year before, you were voted chef of the year by the Gault & Millau guide. On a personal level, how do you manage the pressure that comes from this recognition and these awards?
I handle it quite well. I sleep very well at night. I feel that I can cope with the pressure. The pressure is there, there’s no doubt about that - it’s part of the deal and I’m the fourth chef at the Restaurant de l'Hôtel de Ville. But what matters is our customers. Their enjoyment is what I focus on every day.
Four years ago you took over the kitchen from the late Benoît Violier at the Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville. What are your future plans for the restaurant?
I want to maintain the quality and keep up the spirit of this establishment. I work there every day, striving to do my best.