George White

I n this section, La Grivoise, we put a personality from the world of the art of living through the lens of a few questions. History to discover unsuspected facets of our guests. The cheeky.

Since obtaining its first star in 1929, the success of this exceptional restaurant has never wavered. For 90 years now, this house has not ceased to be starred. Informal conversation with this charismatic chef who manages the feat of bringing 820 people daily to Vonnas in his various establishments.

Text: Leslie Gogois
Portrait: Oriana Fenwick

My untruth (what we imagine about you and which is not true) For people, I often look more like a restaurateur than a cook, but it's not true! When I started, the apprenticeship was done directly in the houses without going through a hotel school. However, for my part, I come from the first generation out of a hotel school; this is what has forged this reputation as a restaurateur which has sometimes played tricks on me. I had a hard time imposing myself, it must be said that success generates a certain form of jealousy. I like this maxim that says “To be jealous is to exist. Not existing makes you jealous”. However, I am a real cook, who likes to be in the middle of his team. This morning again, I was in pastry; Last night we launched our new menu with dishes decided by my chef and myself. I have lunch and dinner every day with my staff, in the kitchen.

My hidden secret (a little mania, a cute sin…) I always have a little notebook on my bedside table. As soon as I am not sleeping, I write down the fruit of my thoughts which are always related to my profession. I have a totally passionate commitment to cooking. Moreover, my motto reminds us: “Without passion, there is no elevation”. Only passion allows overcoming, I am firmly convinced of that. Although I am past retirement age, my mind is constantly on the alert. I try to progress every day.

My greatest love in life is… The satisfaction of my clients. Succeeding in creating emotion with them is my greatest reward. I'm not sure I can do it every day at every table, but with my team, we tirelessly want to add an emotional touch to a quality service.

What I really don't know how to do… Retire! Since I took over the family business in 1968, I have rarely gone on vacation. And the best time was always when I came back to my job. My passion was born when I began to deliver a personal cuisine around the greatest products, punctuated by the seasons. At first, I was more in the repertoire of mother cooks, it was only then that my cooking evolved. My neighbors were Alain Chapel, Paul Bocuse, we were always in a healthy emulation, which only reinforced my passion.

If I had led another life… I almost led another life! When I was 17, I learned to fly a plane in a flying club in Mâcon. It became a passion, I remember that I collected Aviation Magazines and dreamed of going to the Ecole de l'Air de Salon de Provence; but I was declared unfit because I was color blind during the medical visit. So I went to the hotel school in Thonon-les-Bains, where I graduated top of my class. Today, there are a few winks around me that remind me that I am a citizen reserve colonel of the Air Force: a Mirage 3 in my property, as well as a photo of me with my jacket of pilot. However, I have no regrets, I lead an exciting life. And if I had been a fighter pilot, I should have retired 30 years ago!

The bonus question: what does white color inspire you in the kitchen? White is the color of catering, of gastronomy… Aprons, chef's jackets, toppings… There is white everywhere in my restaurant, because it is a safe bet, an inspiring color for me. I remember a defining moment: in 1959, when I was working at the Grand Hotel in Divonne-les-Bains, we took a photo of the whole brigade in white in front of the hotel. Since then, I have perpetuated this tradition with my brigade, I offer them this photo every year. In fact, I lead a white but colorful life!