DIRECTOR OF AMBER RESTAURANT AND BAR – LAURENT CHEVALIER
“I could even not carry plates,” reflects Laurent Chevalier about the inauspicious start to his high profile career in gourmet restaurants which had already taken this Sorbonne-educated Frenchman from Paris to New York, Palm Beach and Tokyo before his recent arrival at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong as the Director of Amber Restaurant and Bar.
“Learning from scratch” as a busboy at legendary Paris dinner cabaret Moulin Rouge, the ambitious 21-year old mastered enough tricks of his chosen trade that within six months, Laurent moved on to join the FLO Group, a leading French restaurant group. Just as quickly he worked his way up to maître d’ at Le Boeuf Sur Le Toit Brasserie, a favorite haunt of the Paris beau monde which opened in 1921.
Curious about fine dining, Laurent headed next to Place des Vosges, perhaps the most beautiful spot in the City of Lights, where he served as Assistant General Manager at La Guirlande de Julie, the more casual sister to renowned two Michelin starred restaurant La Tour d’Argent. Though his next move, to New York City, was for love, Laurent was soon working under NYC’s top French pastry chef turned restaurateur Francois Payard, on the posh Upper East Side. “Payard was the eatery of that glamorous time” he recalls of those five years during which the bistro’s lean operation meant Laurent was “doing everything, I was the maître d’, wine director, general manager, you name it.”
Payard’s longtime business partner, the French celebrity chef Daniel Boulud lured Laurent to Palm Beach to open Café Boulud as the General Manager. “Life was good in Palm Beach,” he remembers about this period during which he also oversaw the openings of Bar Boulud NYC, DB Bistro Miami and DB Bistro Montreal. Laurent maintains strong ties to both Payard and Boulud to this day.
“Japan was already on my mind” in early 2014 when another celebrated French chef, Alain Ducasse, came calling upon Laurent to open Beige Alain Ducasse, a collaboration with Chanel in Tokyo. “Ducasse plus Tokyo plus Chanel. It was a dream combination.” Asked what he learned from the famously meticulous Ducasse, Laurent does not hesitate: “He elevates quality to an art form across all his restaurants, from the table, to the food and the people. His staff gives 200% because he sets that example.”