Stéphane Philippon is a young cook from the Berry region of France who has spent most of his career in Michelin-starred Parisian restaurants. As the new owner of Le Jacques-Cœur, he’s determined to give his historic restaurant a fresh new appeal.
Last August, Stéphane Philippon, a 39-year-old chef who has spent most of his career cooking for luxury hotels and starred restaurants in Paris, bought a historic establishment in provincial Bourges. Open since 1947, Le Jacques-Cœur, located opposite the Jacques Coeur Palace, is a local institution. From 1952 to 1984 it was the city’s only starred restaurant – a record of longevity in the annals of the red Michelin Guide. Housed in a handsome neo-gothic residence built in the 1940s, the establishment has been the haunt of such notables as Mayor Jacques Rimbault, who dined there daily.
Stéphane Philippon comes from a long line of cooks; his great-grandmother cooked for the owners of a Berry chateau, and his father runs a renowned caterers’ establishment in Sancoins. Philippon, who frequented the universe of ‘Michelin stars’, luxury establishments and the finest restaurants since his formative years, knew what he was doing when he bought the Jacques-Coeur. And now he’s at the head of a ‘place with an image’, serving customers who demand the ‘mackerel in white wine’ the previous chef used to make.
He does his utmost to satisfy the nostalgic yearnings of his clientele, his personal ambitions as a chef, and the constraints that go with being a boss... not always an easy task! Awarded the Prix Pierre Taittinger in 2003, when he worked under Michel Roth, his goal is to revitalize the restaurant by renewing the menu, one step at a time.
Le Jacques-Cœur in a nutshell
A table: next to the window, with a view of the Jacques Cœur palace.
A starter: lepressé de bœuf (beef pressed into a mould)
A main course: le canon d’agneau en croûte d’herbe (saddle of lamb in herbed crust)
A dessert: Vacherin
A menu: € 19.90, an excellent value, as are the other fixed-price menus…
Traditional French dishes, more creative cuisine, and typical recipes from the Berry all share the menu. From starters to dessert, including the bread, everything is homemade. Sharing the menu with sole meunière, calf’s head sauce gribiche, veal kidneys in Madera sauce and poultry vol-au-vent, the general favourite seems to be the little langoustine raviolis stuffed with finely chopped mushrooms accompanied by bisque. More creative, his whole red mullet, served carefully boned, is stuffed with anchovy fillets and served on a bed of Middle-Eastern style couscous.
Stéphane Philippon aims to dust off the Jacques-Cœur’s rather antiquated ‘inaccessibly prestigious’ image of yore. His menu at € 19.90 does this with one of his favourite classic winter dishes redesigned as a starter, the pressé de bœuf accompanied by an onion and old-fashioned Meaux mustard relish. His saddle of lamb from the Bourbon region cooked in an herbed crust is a ‘fantastic product’; Stéphane often serves it with some of the delectable forgotten vegetables that he’s been tracking down for a dozen years or so.
Desserts call on childhood memories of indugences made by his father or grandmother: rice pudding cooked like a risotto, genuine chou pastry with cream, or the big, scrumptious baba.
As for the future, Philippon is open to all possibilities, especially that of modernizing his equipment. For example, he might use a siphon to present a few examples of molecular cuisine to his customers, or even ‘redesign’ a calf’s head... Berry interesting indeed!
3, Place Jacques Cœur
Tel: 02 48 26 53 01