Opening a restaurant – a childhood dream come true
Fresh ingredients and ideas being served … in the Ouest region. Thanks to the Michelin star earned by Virginie Giboire and her restaurant Racines, Rennes has secured its position as the city with the most Michelin stars in the Ouest region. In September 2017, the Rennes-born chef returned to open up this establishment with her sommelier partner Fabien Hacques. After having earned her stripes in the prestigious private dining and restaurants of Paris, opening a restaurant in her home city was a childhood dream.
“It’s kind of the story of all chefs: when I was little, it was my grandmother who looked after me and taught me to make recipes. So, I never in my life asked myself the question, this was just the job that I wanted to do”. This early calling took her to Paris to study culinary arts after making her parents the traditional promise to “sit the baccalaureate first of all”. She then underwent training at the prestigious Ferrandi School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management, which many of the greatest French chefs attended. Her journey led her to work in renowned restaurants, such as Grand Véfour, where she met Fabien. She later became a pastry chef at the Itinéraires restaurant before spending six years in the restaurants at the deluxe Mandarin Oriental: two years as a chef de partie at Sur-Mesure (two stars), the restaurant owned by Thierry Marx, and then four years as a sous-chef in the Camélia restaurant. This has made for a flawless career in a male-dominated industry, where she has succeeded in making her mark.
The next logical step was to open her own establishment, Racines, which has been awarded its first Michelin star for its “intelligent and clear” cuisine. Earning a star in the first year – is this still a dream? “We had hoped, but you never really know where or when it will happen. We didn’t anticipate it being so successful, but even now, I still don’t think I quite believe it” says Virginie.
- Racines restaurant, 12 rue de l’arsenal, Rennes, phone: +33 (0)2 99 65 64 21
Rennes – a city with a “familiar and friendly” atmosphere
“Because I am from Rennes, it was important for me to open my restaurant here, hence the name Racines. Coming home was an obvious choice”. This was not only because it is her home city, but also, and above all, to have the best products close at hand. “In terms of the quality of the products, there is no comparison. I love working with seafood and Rennes is just 45 minutes away from Saint-Malo, which is a bonus. And with two little boys, having family close by makes it easier to balance my personal and professional lives. We do everything within a few hundred metres: the house is behind the restaurant, the school is just next door, the Marché des Lices and the marketplaces are nearby. It’s a different standard of living to what I had in Paris. Rennes is a more personal city, with a familiar and friendly atmosphere”.
At racines “we wanted people to feel at home”
You can see the family-centred origins of her passion for cooking in her restaurant and cuisine. “We want people to feel at home”. You can see this especially with the kitchen, which is open to the dining room, as it had been in the site’s previous restaurant, Aozen. “It seems a little bit like coming to a show, but we just get on with it in our bubble because there is only two of us for the lunch and evening service, so for 25 tables, you need to stay focused”. The front-row seats are very popular and it’s worth making a reservation in advance. “With an open kitchen, we can’t lie, which is a sign of confidence for customers”. Here, the chef sees this as natural, even though it is not standard practice in fine dining.
“Cooking is not an industry for just men ”
The chef has found her feet perfectly in the gastronomic turbulence that has shaken things up in Rennes in recent years. This has been a happy expansion that has benefited food lovers with events such as the Marché à manger, the Toqués at the Mythos festival, the Snackés at La Criée, Les Bouffes rennaises and many more. In Rennes, things are changing in the world of cuisine. “Rennes is a city on the up in terms of gastronomy and, at just 90 min away from Paris, it is increasingly attractive”, explains the Rennes-born chef.
Her restaurant is next to one owned by Julien Lemarié, who also quickly earned a Michelin star after opening IMA. On this “street of stars”, competition is not the done thing. “We create completely different dishes and we get on well”, says Virginie. The two chefs also regularly pool their supplies of regional products.
“In Rennes, there are plenty of different styles of restaurant and more and more female chefs, with, for example, Petite nature on our street and Blandine’s restaurant Essentiel next to the canal. The one-off Marché à manger especially for female chefs reflects this diversity and it’s fantastic to show that cooking is not an industry for just men!”