A relatively newcomer on the local food scene, Le Colonel is a dream come true for the city’s meat eaters and beef connoisseurs. Complete with its own in-house butcher, the new imprint takes guests from selection to perfection in a matter of a meal. We get a crash-course in meat-sourcing, picking, eating and cooking from the new venture’s founders, Launched by Benoit Vano & Anaïs Droeven’s.
Can you describe your concept in a few words? What is the core business?
The restaurant Le Colonel resulted from a desire to draw the public’s attention to quality meat, beef in particular, and the different regions associated with exceptional meat (Charolaise, Aubrac, Salers, Normande, etc.) All breeds of beef are proudly given a place on the menu and are also displayed in the restaurant’s own butcher counter. The main point of the restaurant is that guests can choose their own piece of meat. This means that they have to come to the butcher’s counter and ask questions, listen, discover, and understand why each breed or piece tastes differently from another. They have to actively choose what they want to eat. That makes us, Colonel, quite unique.
Can you discuss the concept’s first steps? How did it come about?
Benoit always wanted to open a restaurant: it was his dream. At the age of 27 he decided to go back to school and learn to be a chef. It took him three years, but then he was able to legally open a restaurant. I knew he wanted to make something around meat and french fries. But he didn’t want to open any restaurant like the others and he couldn’t really express how to make it different. Then, last year we went on holiday to Orlando, Florida with our kids, and in a Disneyworld Hotel, “Grand Beach,” he saw a steakhouse with a butcher standing in a vitrine with ribs around him, and a big oven in an open kitchen. Then he had a revelation: “That’s what I want to do! I want to put the meat in the centre of the restaurant.” When we came back from the US we found a location quite easily, which was a sign… a sign that life says: gogogo!!!! We then started to look for the meat. Deciding no to do it like the rest, we went on a five-week-trip to France to get to know each breed on their own land: Salers in Salers (Auvergne), Aubrac in Aubrac (Aveyron). The goal was to meet each local expert (farmer, abbatoir, etc.) and create a system without middle-men to bring the meat directly to our restaurant with constant quality.
Can you talk to us about the name: Its significance and how it relates to the concept’s core idea?
Colonel is a tribute to Benoit’s grandfather who is now 96 years old. He is the “main stone” of our family. He used to be a Colonel, and you can still feel it in his behaviour; he is very elegant, respectable, clever, classy and is still 20 in his mind. He was very attentive to all our projects: studies, travels, university, and business. He is like our guide, our example, and he also likes good meat! So, the tribute was well deserved. I always say the method must be as important as the final result. In addition, Colonel is Ben’s favorite dessert, so it was funky to give that forgotten dessert a fresh kick. The world Colonel also sounds a bit ancient and manly (for a meat restaurant, that was necessary). The word also exists in most languages, and people and journalists can really play with it.
What excites you the most about your concept? What are you the proudest of?
We are very happy that the success came very fast after almost a year of preparation. Then to finally start and get positive feedback: it’s a very nice feeling.
How and why did you choose the neighbourhood you’re currently located in? What attracted you to it in the first place?
After coming back from the US, this location was the first that we visited. We knew how difficult it could be to find the right place, so when we saw it, we knew it was the one. It was also Ben’s birthday that day: another good sign. Personally, I also like to be in a city without too many cars and here you feel the vibes of the city centre without all the noise. And having the parking lot just next to the restaurant was a great coincidence; it’s very comfortable for clients and also for us!
How do you feel you’re bringing something fresh to the neighborhood? Do you feel you’re adding value to it in any way?
We must say that we were very positively welcomed by all the people in the neighbourhood! So we hope we bring some good energy too, and a big smile.
Can you talk to us about the other businesses located in your neighborhood? Do they have any similarities between each other?
This area is like a little village in the city: you’re very close to Avenue Louise with all the nice boutiques, and you have many hotels. But in the end, there are not so many restaurants to satisfy the demand. We have very different neighbors (a flower shop, a supermarket, Italian restaurants, Lebanese restaurants, sandwich shops, etc.). There are also lot of shops and offices so people need to eat quickly during the busy lunchtime.
What did you least expect about starting this business?
The amount of physically demanding work.
What would you tell a beginner?
To take as much time as necessary to make things right. It’s never losing time. It’s very important to listen to people’s feedback and adjust details. BUT it’s also important to keep being spontaneous and daring. So, it must be somewhere in between.
Can you name one other concept that proved to be an inspiration? A concept whose moves you follow.
Les Crocs de l’Ogre in Paris.
What does success look like to you?
For us, Colonel was a real adventure even before the opening. Sharing what we discover with our clients brings meaning to our lives, and the positive feedback we get from people gives us the motivation to go on and on.
1060 Rue Jean Stas 24