Ideally located in the heart of the city, guests staying at Hotel d’Angleterre don’t have to travel far to enjoy Geneva’s finest cuisine. A favourite among visitors and locals alike, Windows Restaurant serves its culinary creations against the incredible backdrop of Lake Geneva and the towering mountains in the distance. Experts in the field of fine dining, Windows know the value of a warm reception, from first class service to refined décor and beautifully presented plates. And when it comes to looking after its guests, no one is more concerned with the customer experience than Head Chef Michael Coquelle. We caught up with the man behind the menu at Windows Restaurant to find out about his culinary principles, the value of good, simple food and the secret to running a successful restaurant.
You’ve had a passion for cooking from a very young age. Are there any particular dishes from your childhood that inspired you to become a chef?
“I became interested in cooking when I was very young, perhaps because it’s a blend of art and science – creativity on the one hand and precision on the other. I wouldn’t say there is one dish in particular that ignited my passion but I’ll never forget the smell of the “Pot au Feu” wafting through from my grandparents’ kitchen on Sundays. It’s a hearty stew made with beef and root vegetables, a traditional family dish in France.”
As a Frenchman who has worked in restaurants in France, what did you find so appealing about coming to Geneva?
“Obviously the mountains are an enormous draw. It’s rare to live in a place where the frost in winter is as idyllic as the sun in summer but Geneva manages it incredibly well. The hotels, restaurants, bars and shops in Geneva all aspire to the highest standards. It’s a city that inspires you to achieve your best.”
Windows Restaurant serves “international” cuisine. Which countries do you draw your inspiration from?
“I try to include multiple influences to make my cuisine as varied, international and interesting as possible. I look to the cuisine of the Maghreb and Asia for my inspiration as well as my home country France, of course.”
In the past you have said that cuisine “doesn’t have to be complicated to be good”. Why is it better to keep things simple?
“Sometimes people try to hide the taste of the base product behind several flavours, thinking that transforming a particular ingredient’s taste is a sign of skill. It is important to base dishes around the original taste of the basic ingredients and go from there – the flavours are always so much more powerful this way.”
Of the cuisine served at Windows Restaurant, which are your signature dishes?
“I would say the salmon – it’s half-cooked, half-smoked which is a difficult process to master but the fun is in the challenge.”
You have said that the “aim of the game” is to keep your guests happy. Is this the secret to a successful restaurant?
“My philosophy is that the guests should always be kept happy. That is the guiding principle behind my menu at Windows Restaurant as this is the only way they’ll return in the future. From the ingredients in our dishes and the expertise of our sommelier right the way through to our thoughtful and attentive front of house team, the satisfaction of our guests is behind every decision we make. Seeing the guests happy is a reward for us as well.”
You’re quite a rare breed: a chef who enjoys baking and patisserie. What is it about these disciplines that you like so much?
“I am a very Cartesian person; I enjoy the mathematical precision of cooking. Accuracy plays a key role in both baking and making pastry, with the pristine end product depending on every part of the process running smoothly. Patisserie has given me a lot of joy over the years.”
You worked as a sous chef at Windows Restaurant earlier in your career. What was it that made you want to come back?
“I have always loved to create cuisine which guests will enjoy, an ethos which Windows Restaurant, Hotel d’Angleterre and Red Carnation Hotels share passionately. There are always new challenges but the kitchen is a close, friendly environment so every day is rewarding. Windows Restaurant and Hotel d’Angleterre are elegant and welcoming and provide hospitality the way it should be.”
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