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CHEF PASCAL AUSSIGNAC ON BREXIT & CLUB GASCON

‘French Londoner’ Chef Pascal Aussignac is well known for his acclaimed French restaurants, which are all part of the Gascon Collection, but could Brexit change his fortunes? He gives us his thoughts on the UK’s eventual departure from the EU and how this could affect his business

Words: Alexander Larman

The chef Pascal Aussignac might not be a household name, but it’s likely that you’ll have been to at least one of his restaurants, whether it’s his Michelin-starred flagship Club Gascon, his more informal brasserie Comptoir Gascon, or one of his street food establishments, Duck n Roll or Chip + Fish.

Having established himself in the forefront of London dining for well over a decade now, you’d expect Aussignac to be calm and optimistic about the future. However, a little thing called Brexit might have changed everything.

‘It’s very difficult to be certain about what’s going to happen as it’s early days, but the government seems lost,’ Aussignac says sternly. As he puts it: ‘Some 80% of my employees are from Europe, as Britain doesn’t have any employees to supply the restaurant industry. If young people can’t come to the UK for work, we have a problem.’

 

‘Young people come here to learn English and to find a job, and if they can’t get a residency permit, I wonder how the hospitality sector will be supplied. France has 400 cooking schools, and Britain has 20. There is no way that you will have enough trained people to supply the restaurant industry.’

Prices for goods from Europe have already gone up 10%; Aussignac isn’t worried about his own situation, but notes that ‘the future is more blurred for foreigners than it should be’.

France has 400 cooking schools, and Britain has 20. There is no way that you will have enough trained people to supply the restaurant industry

His own background is one of fusion between France and England; he calls himself ‘a French Londoner’, and originally opened Club Gascon in 1998 because he wasn’t able to get a bank loan to start a restaurant in Paris.

‘We opened Club in 1998, having decided to open in 1996,’ he reflects. ‘It was the perfect time to come to London, but things were very different to what they are now – the big names were Terence Conran, Jean-Christophe Novelli and Peter Gordon. Times change.’

The exterior of Club Gascon at 57 West Smithfield

The exterior of Club Gascon at 57 West Smithfield

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The quality of his restaurants, thankfully, has not. Aussignac always knew he wanted to be a chef (‘Although I wanted to be a stone cutter until I was eight – I was useless at things like maths, but always good with my hands’), and prides himself on respecting his Gascony heritage with his restaurants, whether formal or informal.

‘Club Gascon needs me,’ he states, ‘it’s my baby and it’s a space with a tiny kitchen that serves complicated food. I’m the only Frenchman in the kitchen, and need to train my staff in the Gascony flavours – I am the link and it must be unbroken!’

I’m very proud to have brought something into existence that delivers a message. On behalf of Club Gascon and co, it represents some part of my DNA outside of France

He is the proud holder of a Michelin star for over a decade, but has also won accolades including Time Out’s ‘Best Fries’ award for Comptoir Gascon and a Lord Mayor’s award for his restaurants’ floral displays, which he does himself.

Asked to summarise his successes, he says: ‘I am in Britain and have been for 20 years, and I’m very proud to have brought something into existence that delivers a message – it’s not just doing a job. I love pleasing people.’

57 West Smithfield EC1A 9DS; 020 7600 6144; clubgascon.com

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