The decor is set on the side of the hotel-restaurant La Ferme!
We met Stephen Requet, owner of the establishment, originally from Perpignan and arrived in La Clusaz with his parents 40 years ago.
" Here, we come to eat, certainly, but not only ...
At La Ferme, we meet, we share, we laugh, we sing, we dance, we celebrate Friendship, Love, Life!"
Could you tell us about your first, challenging years at La Ferme?
My story of La Ferme as we know it today starts when I finished my military service in 1996. At that time, it was my parents who owned the establishment and it was in a difficult situation. The clientele was almost inexistant, lots of work needed done and at my age I didn’t have much money coming in. Things didn’t look good, but I set my heart and soul into saving the place. I had to find a solid plan of action as the situation was simple, a ski resort is only as good as its snow and after several years of a bad snow fall this was the reason for my parents’ troubles. I believed I had to attract people back by providing a personal welcome all year round, that the more I put my heart and soul in, the more I would get back from the clients. Bit by bit they started coming back and now I even employ someone in winter just to answer the phone! I’m the first one to be surprised…La Ferme is just La Ferme (laughs). We don’t have any Michelin stars, we offer simple, good and generous cuisine at affordable prices to cater for everyone!
You have now been running La Ferme for over 20 years, how would you describe it today?
La Ferme, is a hotel-restaurant with 12 guest rooms, but I would say it’s more like a restaurant with private hotel bedrooms, it’s a small nuance, but important! The restaurant setting is unbelievable, it has an impressive central, wooden beam called a “ferme” which is where the name comes from. In both the restaurant and the hotel, we pay particular attention to the quality of our decoration. All waiting staff wear a shirt, apron and since 2014, a wooden bow tie, I found them during a trip to Austria with my wife Anouk. We want to be more than just a hotel restaurant, we want to be a trip within a trip, a memory, a pleasant interlude and a place where our guests can come back and discover new things every time.
Things must be looking up, you have to employ someone in winter just to answer the phone! How would explain this success?
What counts is the welcome both in the greeting and on the plate! A good restaurant, is a combination of surprises that starts even before you order. I often follow my instinct, but I always say to my staff: put yourself in the shoes of the clients! Of course, everyone is here to eat, but they are also here to share a meal and all that that entails. A good place to eat is somewhere you feel at home with you and your family and friends and where we are always one step ahead of you.
Is the warm and personal welcome you give guests specific to La Ferme?
The welcome is the most important thing! It needs to be warm, but not over the top, friendly, but not too much either. You need to understand people and often surprise them with kindness. My wife Anouk, who has been working with me for the last 7 years, and I do our best every day to make our guests feel at home, to provide the ultimate service and make their holidays go as smoothly as possible. A personal welcome and service is priceless, you need to give to receive and when you give without expecting anything in return, the guest gives back more than money, it’s the magical part of the profession and of life!
You still seem to love what you do, even after all these years. What is it about your profession that makes you tick?
The basic thing I enjoy is meeting and interacting with my clients on a daily basis. Some of our clients have been coming back for years and I’m sure if we put the stays end to end it would add up to about a year in our establishment. It’s inevitable that we build lasting relationships with the people that share our life, both personal and professional during these stays. It’s so rewarding to meet someone once a year, but that each time they remember in detail the last time we met! Each day in the restaurant is completely unique, like being in a theatre with the curtain rising at each sitting. You know your lines and the moves are the same, but there is always that part of improvisation, each day brings its load of surprises with changes in rhythm, people, different moods and required set up. I love talking and am ready to share my emotions and I believe that is what means I can have close ties with many people!
You seem to place a lot of importance on the local and environmetal aspect, could you tell us more?
In my line of work it is very important! I’m constantly rethinking and questioning everything, which is exhausting for those around me and my team(laughs) but has brought me to thinking about how to improve our way of working to reduce our impact on the environment. We are already “maître restaurateur » which means we prepare our dishes from scratch from locally sourced products. It is important to maintain a high quality of product but not only in the interest of our clients. To consume locally produced products means having a positive impact on the environment. We are also working on reducing our waste and making use of them, we can’t just go on with the current level of impact. We would also like to reduce the amount of meat and seafood on our menu. The 2020 Lockdown gave us time to consider how to proceed with these changes, with the aim of reducing quantities by 90%. We don’t plan to become a vegetarian restaurant and stop the use of animal proteins, but to participate in the movement towards healthier and “greener” eating. I’m not trying to stand on my soap box to hand out judgements, just follow my convictions. I think it’s possible to change our way of consuming and as a restaurant owner, I take the responsibility very seriously!