A Day in the Life of La Villa French Restaurant in Saigon
Diners won’t start ambling into La Villa French Restaurant in Thao Dien in District 2 with rumbling stomachs until just before noon,but the day begins much, much earlier for the restaurant’s staff and owners. At La Villa French Restaurant everything is made fresh daily and that takes time and dedication.
La Villa French Restaurant is not just in the business of making and selling food, everything (the flavours, the freshness, the service) must work together to create a fine dining experience that the customer will not soon forget.
Video source: City Pass Guide
Early Morning - La Villa’s French Pastries and Starters
As the late Anthony Bourdain wrote in his book “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly”:
“As an art form, cooktalk is, like haiku or kabuki, defined by established rules,
with a rigid, traditional framework in which one may operate.”
At La Villa French Restaurant this framework is what takes the kitchen space from what could surely descend into chaos in a lesser restaurant into a perfectly choreographed ballet. La Villa French Restaurant follows in the fine dining traditions of a professional French kitchen, meaning each food type has its own station and its own brigade de cuisine, known simply in English as the kitchen staff.
At La Villa, there is a station for cold foods, one for hot and one for pastries. Each station is then divided even further into specific categories with its own senior Chef de partie, or station chef, as well as a junior Chef de partie and a commis, the assistant who helps with all the basic cooking tasks in order to learn from the more experienced chefs.
The cold foods station encompasses the garde manger, or pantry chef, who is responsible for preparing foods such as salads, cold starters, charcuterie and pâté.
Over there in the cloud of steam and sizzling butter is the hot foods station. There is a poissonnier, the fish chef, a rôtisseur/grillardin, who is in charge of preparing the meats, and a saucier, who unsurprisingly is the one who prepares the sauces and stocks for the restaurant. Each of these stations also includes three chefs.
Finally there is the pâtissier, or pastry chef, who creates the exquisite desserts at La Villa French Restaurant such as its signature “mango and coco fraicheur”, which is as cooling to the palate as it is awakening to the senses.
The pastry chef arrives, the kitchen’s spotless presence belies the flurry of cooking that happened there the night before. Soon the silence of the restaurant is broken by the sound of vegetables being chopped as the Chef de Partie for the cold station arrives and begins prepping everything for the starters. The bread, foie gras and pastries are also made fresh every single day and are never frozen.
The prime cuts of meat and fish are delivered and the Chef de partie for the meat section begins his split shift. He removes the fat from the meat to prepare it for presentation with the exactitude of a surgeon. The duck confit is prepared to form the stuffing for La Villa’s famous “duck confit raviole”, while over at the sauce station the aromas of simmering stock begin to waft throughout the kitchen.
Chef Thierry arrives to take inventory of the food deliveries. A day in the culinary life of Chef Thierry involves much more than just dressing the plates. From this moment until the restaurant closes for the evening, Chef Thierry will wear many hats, so to speak. He will jump between the roles of manager, business man, product promoter and most importantly the head of all quality control.
Mid-Morning at La Villa French Restaurant
Between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m:
The show is in full swing. There are at least 11 people moving around the kitchen pivoting from station to stove in a finely tuned choreography.
In the dining room, the serving staff is also in motion. The manager, the sommelier, supervisor and wait staff have prepared their stations—tablecloths have been ironed, reservations confirmed, wine and other beverages have been inventoried, silverware lovingly placed next to the china—and now it is time for lunch!
Mrs Tina, La Villa’s Restaurant Manager and Chef Thierry’s wife, greets the customers with a smile when they arrive and makes sure that each guest feels like the restaurant is preparing a feast just for their enjoyment.
Each plate that leaves the kitchen will be inspected by Chef Thierry to make sure it has its final touches and that the plating is perfect before it is swept off to the diners.
Afternoon at La Villa French Restaurant - Lunch is Served
The lunch rush is over and the brigade de cuisine now has time to take a rest. Most of the staff at La Villa French Restaurant are on a split shift, meaning they come in the morning for the lunch service, then they return in the evening for dinner. This system helps with quality control so that regardless of whether a guest comes to enjoy a mid-afternoon meal or dine in the Ho Chi Minh City twilight, they will have the same standard of food because the Chef de partie does not change.
Late Afternoon/Early Evening - An Elegant French Dinner
The brief moment of midday calm is replaced by a flurry of activity as the swing shift employees return from their break and begin prepping for the dinner crowd. King crabs, Hokkaido scallops and Transmontanus caviar is prepared for the starter in the “Menu Privilege”, while over at another station the black risotto is crafted to accompany the rock lobster tail from Tristan da Cunha.
Each chef at each station is fully concentrated on the time that passes. Before the dinner service begins and the guests file in, at least 100 tasks and taste tests have to be completed.
6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
In the evening, guests stay longer, lingering over their camemberts and bries from Les Freres Marchand on La Villa’s renowned French cheese trolley and sipping their Bordeaux over long conversations. As the night falls and the candles twinkle on the tables, the mood in the dining room slows. Everything at La Villa French Restaurant has been conceived of to create a refined environment. Despite the threat of a tipped glass of red, all the floors in the dining room are carpeted to hush the noise of foot traffic. Even though behind the kitchen doors the staff is in full bustle, diners at La Villa French Restaurant are able to concentrate completely on the luxurious food that arrives with each course.
Mrs Tina and the service staff fly gracefully between tables to make sure every guest is content, giving tidbits about the origins of the ingredients or recommending that perfect bottle of wine to complement the flavours of the “roasted pigeon from Les Landes”.
Chef Thierry is busy in background leading the brigade de cuisine like the conductor of a world-class orchestra. Plate after plate is hustled out of the kitchen to be consumed with sounds of ‘oohs and aahs’ from the guests—Chef Thierry’s appreciative audience.
Late Night at La Villa French Restaurant
As the restaurant’s two stewards wash up the dishes and clean the kitchen for another day, the tired staff takes inventory of the stock and slowly drifts off to rest up for the next big show.
A day in the life of a French fine dining restaurant is both commotion and quiet. There is the flame that leaps off of a perfectly heated grill and the delicate timing of a grand marnier souffle to consider. There is drama and intrigue, routine and ritual but what keeps the restaurant going, day in and day out, is the love of it. The love of the cuisine, the flavours and most importantly the passion to share this savoir-faire with La Villa’s clientele.
Make your reservation to have a true French fine dining experience.
Image source: La Villa French Restaurant