Feature Article, Interview of the Month - Cecile Rebbot
Updated: Jun 21, 2019
Today is the first day for Taste of London, which has already grown to be one of the most important events on the gastronomical calendar in London. The history of the festival goes back to the first edition taking place in Somerset House back in 2004. Year later the mini kitchens run by best chefs in the town popped up in Regents Park. Since then the festival grew and spread, now reaching 15 different destination cities from North America, through Africa up to Australia. We have talked about the festival and what makes the best restaurant with Cecile Rebbot, Senior Director in IMG Culinary, the company behind the Festivals and World Restaurant Award.
AK: What’s happening on Taste this year?
CR: Lots... New Fire Pit restaurants only cooking 1 dish for a couple of hours, revamped cook school, Taste talks where we are addressing industry challenges, podcast sessions, The Wild Kitchen masterclasses, new VIP area design, 1 new type of restaurant stand and Wolfgat, the restaurant of the year 2019 awarded on World Restaurant Awards.
AK: Taste has always reflected the dynamics of the industry, what do you see as most important for restaurateurs in 2019?
CR: It's hard to say and I don't pretend I have the absolute answer for this. What I have been witnessing is that we are going towards more quality and accessibility. Stiff, intimidating experiences are disappearing. People want relaxing environments with still the best food. Also people are more informed than ever and they are interested beyond what they eat when going out, the story behind is now as important. Storytelling alongside the food becomes more and more important, people want to know how did the team behind the restaurant come to this experience. Instagram is impacting plates as well. There are a lot of new instagreamable concepts that are not necessarily notable for the quality of their food.
AK: Taste has also been promoting the Chef’s that are doing the right thing, who drive the change and create trends. What makes a great chef today? What used to be new that has now become a must?
CR: Put your heart into the plate. I think as a diner, you can tell when what you eat has a meaning and matters to the chef. Great produce is a must. Almost nothing else matters
AK: Who do you watch closely?CR: Some of the chefs rewarded or nominated at The World Restaurant Awards who are not the biggest stars yet but who will certainly be in the near future.
AK: Tell us a little bit more about the World Restaurant Awards. You have just handed the first awards back in February and looking at the categories you have outlined as well as on the judgement panel, the concept looks fantastic. It looks like culinary Oscars! Is this what you had in mind when starting this project?
CR: Yes and this project was born 10 years ago when Joe Warwick (journalist) and Justin Clarke (IMG) discussed awards for restaurants in the same way music and films are awarded and treated as culture
AK: What do you see as the mission for the awards?
CR: The mission is to celebrate Excellence, Diversity and Ethical Thinking and be inclusive.
AK: What is the key for selecting the judges for the panel?
CR: Judges are selected on their knowledge of the international restaurant scene and on the fact that they travel and discover dining experiences all year long.
AK: How do you place yourself in relation to the giants such as 50best, Michelin, AA?
CR: We are different, we want to bring a fresh approach to awards ceremonies and also there is another mission beyond just revealing and rewarding restaurants, we want to help drive change, we want to inspire change.
AK: The questions no interview now can go without - what’s going to happen after Brexit?
CR: I'm worried food quality will go down as restaurateurs wont be able to import as much . Staff may go back to their countries so restaurants will seriously lack staff.
AK: If you were a restaurateur, where would you invest?
CR: I would invest on a rather small space / 20 to 30 covers, in a concept that offers amazing quality food and drinks, with a strong knowledge and sourcing behind, that guests can enjoy everyday, ie accessible and very good, with a menu that is not too long.
AK: Finally, as word of advise on PR front - the best way to increase the brand visibility is...
CR: Influencers, ambassadors also associating your brand to the relevant industry events or people.
AK: What is an absolute must in the current PR strategies, that people tend to ignore?
CR: I don't think people tend to ignore it, but nowadays you need to create your instagrameable moment for your brand.