Fabienne Brendel, director of the restaurant,
the committed ambassador
Immersed in the World of restaurants by her mother who ran a Winstub, the future of Fabienne Brendel, the Chef's sister, seemed obvious. However, before running a Michelin star restaurant in Riquewihr, she trained as a nurse. The hazards of life brought her back to the family hearth and after training in restaurant management, she joined her brother in his adventure.
She has thus, from traditional Alsatian dishes to today's distinguished table, followed the development of her brother's cooking, more sophisticated, inspired by discoveries, spices here and new techniques there.
Conducting a team of 5, she is the link with the kitchen, carrying client congratulations, soothing the chef's disquiet. In the restaurant she is “there without being there”, availability without obtrusion, always good-hearted. Her formation in psychology is most helpful in understanding the temperament of diners. There are those who wish to be recognised, to share, and those who wish to remain untroubled and calm. Her purpose is always the same: that all should enjoy their experience.
She chose the colour red that meets each guest upon entering the restaurant. Together with her brother, they selected the seating, made to measure, and each accessory on the tables, offering a spirit of gentleness that contrasts with the ardour of the chef.
In order to maintain her composure, Fabienne has secrets: sport, that several times a week allows her to cast loose, and of course her family, or “tribe” as she describes it, vital in order to persevere.
With the Chef since 1999, Stéphane Bourgoing is certainly one of Jean Luc Brendel's closest collaborators. He has trained in various regions, in cookery and in pastry work, from Touraine to Brittany, from the Côte d'Azur to Luxembourg with one of the chefs who influenced him most, Michel Behring himself a product of the schools of the great Jacques Maximin or Roger Vergé.
Seeking to move to another starred establishment, Stéphane joined La Table du Gourmet by a happy coincidence. He has gradually seen the kitchen staff grow, the menus evolve, Jean-Luc Brendel's touch confirmed with rules which he staunchly defends. First is the rule of the 3 flavours, then the rule of the 3 textures (crispness, softness and liquid) and then that relating to the use of herbs. This is a new universe that he enters. There are more than 20 herbs and flowers to gather, to pair with each recipe, to create the emotions imagined by the Chef in his startling concept of “from the garden to the plate”.
For Stéphane, Jean-Luc Brendel's cuisine has continuously evolved.
Anne Humbrecht, sommelier,
the defender of the region
Grand daughter of a blacksmith, Anne chose to become a sommelier with ease. After studies between Guebwiller and Strasbourg, she joined the Moulin du Kaegy, a Michelin starred restaurant in Alsace, for three years before moving to Riquewihr where she spent 16 years managing the cellars of Schoenenbourg. From 2010 Anne has been at La Table du Gourmet
The cellar that she took over at La Table du Gourmet required restoration and she rapidly convinced Jean-Luc to initiate the necessary works to obtain a tools that assist the restaurant’s ambitions. Here, Alsace wines are evidently in pole position thanks to a carefully maintained network of wine growers and suppliers, which extends to the Bourgogne region, also producer of fabulous vintages.
Just when new menu is to be published, three wine growers are invited to the restaurant. The best food and wine harmonies are analysed with them, words that shall enhance their work are agreed, all of which allow the Table du gourmet to be a wonderful ambassador for the region.
The Chef’s creative cuisine allows bold balances. For each dish, Anne will try up to 9 tasting trials to ensure that she reaches the perfect balance between food and wine. This is also the moment to highlight “natural”, bio or biodynamic, wines. She wishes to accompany this new movement, to promote the younger wine makers , to support them with the formidable open window that offers la Table du Gourmet.
Anne is happy in Riquewihr. She cannot imagine being far from the vineyards. She needs to be near the hilly countryside and the opportunity to reach out to the wine growers, to understand, accompany and promote the exceptional treasure of her “playground”.
Axel Baumann, Chef de partie,
the breath of youth
Born in Watwiller, Axel Baumann already has an excellent background in his cherished Alsace. Trained at the Auberge Blanche Neige (Labaroche), he then joined the Le Théâtre de Colmar restaurant before working for Jean-Luc Schillinger for 18 months. He then moved to the Domaine du Lac in Guebwiller before a year beside Jean-Georges Klein at the L'Arnsbourg. Recommended to him by a colleague he joined Jean-Luc Brendel's kitchens, which correspond exactly to his ambitions, in 2014.
In the Michelin starred restaurant, he appreciates the absence of monotony and the Chef's constant creativity, but also the fact that he is trusted, that he has a freedom of exploration and that he can be a source of novelty. He is most comfortable with “warm dishes” and particularly vegetables which he seeks with each season to exalt through continuous experimentation.
Axel appreciates a cuisine that stimulates thought, based on classic tastes but which are always accompanied by contemporary hints that surprise or excite the gustatory sensations. His inspiration is of course drawn from cookery books or magazines, when a photo entices the eye or a new alliance triggers questions. His youth is an incredible asset for the restaurant, a marvellous addition to Jean-Luc Brendel's unremitting willingness to progress.
Romantic encounters can totally change fate. Anne Brendel trained as a hairdresser, and had her own salon when she met her future husband. She naturally followed the path towards the restaurant. To be near Jean-Luc, Anne trains as a sommelier, develops the reception of clients, and even improves her English.
For 4 years she attends in the restaurant serving her husband's talent. When an opportunity arises to purchase a house on the main street, the idea is immediately to create some rooms to better cater to customer's requirements. She throws herself into the project and when her husband decides to create the Brendelstub on the ground floor she has no hesitation in taking on the management. Here she appreciates the more relaxed style of clientele and the more frequent exchanges.
Active at all levels, from decoration to the menus, she is always quick to warn her husband of any doubt so that a solution may be found. Attentive to comments, she has the role of the lady of the house all in softness. Her interest in Feng Shui and other Asian philosophies is reflected in the delicate touches throughout. Drawn by the sun and the great outdoors from Canada to Australia, Anne is naturally a discreet and ideal contrary to her quixotic husband.
Unobtrusive, Anne nevertheless sees all and is essential to the balance of the group.
Freddy Hibon, Chef, the bold energetic
Freddy Hibon is from the North, the Hauts de France. Apprenticed at 14 at La Matelote restaurant in Boulogne sur Mer (2 Michelin stars at the time), he moved to Alsace in 2005.
After a few years experience in the region, he meets Jean-Luc Brendel who after only 2 tests decides to entrust him with the Brendelstub.
He has since 2014 brought here his experience and his predilection for sea produce, for scallops for instance. Under Jean-Luc Brendel's supervision, he invents recipes where meat and fish can meet in delicate harmony, whilst at the same time revisiting dishes such as the traditional Baeckeoffe which he prepares as a tajine. In quiet periods, he constantly experiments so as to avoid routine and offer new suggestions to clients each week.
Freddy manages a team of 3 (with 2 extra during the high season) for on average 50 diners at each meal.
But the most exhilarating time is during the Riquewihr Christmas market when more than 700 patrons are greeted in the restaurant each day. To evacuate stress, Freddy plunges into sport, and particularly a punching bag so as to be on top form each morning.
Charles Dias, Responsables de salle,
the enterprising require
Charles Dias is a local child who always wanted to work as soon as possible. Apprenticed in Riquewihr, he has served at various establishments in the village, from the Schoenenbourg to the Dolder, and at the Tire-Bouchon, which has given him a good understanding of the clientele of the main street.
At the Brendelstub he has found the right balance between tourist brasseries and the stilted atmosphere of gastronomical restaurants. He prefers to talk of “simplified top of the line”, and is happy to learn from the requirements of the Brendel name whilst at the same time creating a more relaxed and informal atmosphere.
With Jean-Luc Brendel, he appreciates a relation of trust where ideas are exchanged and proposals are listened to. Charles is thus proud of the renovation of the second dining room and the creation of a bar in replacement of a cheese counter that hid somewhat the entrance to the restaurant. He is also responsible for negotiations with agencies for groups.
His enemy is routine. Interested by each comment and observation, he takes client reactions on board, proposes changes to the menus in one direction or another, improves his competence with the Table du Gourmet's sommelier. And always with the same objective: to ensure customers comfort.
of the hotel industry
Julie is Fabienne's daughter and Jean-Luc's niece, but did not follow the most direct path to the family's world of restaurants and hotels. After a general secondary eduction and studying for a degree in geography for one year, she decided, to the despair of her mother, to join the Lycée Hotelier Alexandre Dumas in Illirch-Graffenstaden. Leaving with a degree (Brevet de Technicien Supérieur), her professional career started as a receptionist. She returned to Riquewihr after a year in Ireland as an au-pair to improve her English.
When, in 2005, her uncle acquired the superb house in the village's main street, she naturally step forward. She could hardly miss the exceptional opportunity of being involved in the opening of such an establishment.
At first she was part of the restaurant staff of the new Brendelstub and from December 2006 took on the responsibility of the B Suites and the 6 bedrooms. Gradually, with the opening of the B Cottage, she has moved away from the restaurant to devote her time to the hotel activities of the group.
Each evening she greets the guests and ensures that they are well settled in. In the morning she supervises breakfast on the ground floor before bidding the clients farewell. After supervising the house keepers, Julie spends her time on administrative tasks and the group's accounting.
Admiring Jean-Luc's evolution, especially his self-education and his intense will to “not do as others”, she always wishes to create souvenirs for her guests. Her dealings with certain regular clients are more those of a family relation. She is driven by the desire to please and she is happy when clients return or seek news as with a friend or a close relation.
Julie wishes each guest to have a unique experience and ensures when necessary that each enjoys a tailor made stay. As with the best concierges of larger hotels, she provides advice on visits in the region, to vineyards, a park to enjoy or activities for all the family. With her friends from the hotelier school, she moves in a formidable network to avoid any period of boredom. And to ensure that her guests enjoy most memorable moments.