Top chef Yves Le Lay behind new restaurant: ‘I wanted to be more present with my guests’
Top chef Yves Le Lay has opened a new restaurant in Copenhagen with his two partners. His ambition is to get a closer connection to his guests.
The Copenhagen based gourmet restaurant NÆRVÆR (In Engllish: “Presence”) opened its doors in the spring of 2017, and since then it has been praised by food critics all around – e.g. by White Guide.
And knowing who is in charge of the kitchen, it really isn’t that odd.
Head Chef and co owner is the renowned chef Yves Le Lay, that has a past at restaurants like Michlin restaurant Søllerød Kro, Falsled Kro and Pädaste Manor – voted the best restaurant in Estonia.
The small restaurant has only 14 seats that are all placed with a direct view to the open kitchen. And for Yves Le Lay, it was precisely an ambition to get guests closer to the kitchen, that was his driving force with the new restaurant.
“I want to be present with my guests, so I can tell them the stories behind the food and show them the kitchen in all its honesty,” Yves Le Lay explaines.
For the chef, it has always been a challenge to find the right balance between cooking and storytelling:
“I have often felt, that if I spend to much time in the retaurant, I loose connection to the kitchen – and vice versa: If I spend too much time in the kitchen, I loose connection to the guests,” Yves Le Lay explaines.
Focus on hosting
With his new and intimate restaurant, the top chef needs to put more focus on being a host. And in his view, it’s a matter of balance and sensing the situation:
“I am a pretty outgoing person so it comes very natural for me to be a host. But it’s really all about sensing what the guest wants,” he says and adds:
“For example you have to quickly sense if the guests wants to hear a lot of stories about the food or if they just want to talk amongst themselves.”
For his new role as host, Yves Le Lay gets his inspiration from his former colleague, the restaurant chef at Danish Michelin restaurant Søllerød Kro. Jan Restorff won the award for Best Service Experience 2016 by White Guide Denmark.
“Jan Restorff is my great idol when it comes to hosting. He has really taught me, how much a good host means for the restaurant experience – and that is not about ego but about the guest.” Yves Le Lay states.
Free play in the kitchen
In the kitchen, Yves Le Lay creates dishes that are inspired by the French cuisine – but there can’t be dogmas, Yves le Lay stresses:
“As a chef and sous chef at other restaurants I have always been subject to dogmas and rules. So with this restaurant,it has been important for me to create a kitchen with free play”, he says and gives an example:
“I have a special love for Asian and North African tastes, and for example I can give a dish just a touch of cumin to give it some new and understated nuances.”