From Nantes’ artisan shops in the heart of the ancient Loire valley, to Rome. Jean Luc Fruneau’s, Executive Chef of the Hotel Lord Byron, journey has always been marked by a continuous culinary research, aimed at being careful to details and to the mixture of flavors and recipes.
Son of bouchers (butchers), Jean Luc began his career in Nantes in the local cuisine and catering shop. It is the beginning of the 70’s and the culinary philosophy, especially in France, is still largely tied to tradition and is still immune to the requests of the Nouvelle Cuisine. As a young apprentice, he is able to learn the basics and is busy preparing dishes such as duck in orange sauce, bellavista salmon and fish dishes typical of the area.
The 70’s are near the end and society is evolving, hanging on a balance following the wave of effects that were brought by 1968. Nantes’ world is too small for Jean Luc. Barely eighteen years old, he says goodbye to Jules Verne’s city and he starts his journey. Where to? Of course, the starting point was the only city that had always been able to spin change: Paris. The approach with the Ville Lumière is extreme and dazzling. As all big loves, the city absorbs him from all points of view. He works for all type of food services, from restaurants to hotels and after a period of 12-hour working days, he becomes the commis under Monsieur Chef Roux, at the Chalot Roi of Place de Clichy, one of the most prestigious fish restaurants in all of France.
During the Parisian years, Jean Luc learns all the secrets of traditional French cooking and at the same time, he witnesses the birth of the nouvelle cuisine: the dish is at the center of the attention. Plating is now fundamental, together with the ability of combining fewer ingredients in an ensemble of flavors that exalts more than just the potential of the single elements. The intent is not to satiate but to make one fall in love. Meals lose their fattier components. After more than 190 years from the French Revolution, the changes do not happen in the streets, but in the kitchens.
From commis, he becomes Premier Commis and finally Chef. Nonetheless, Jean Luc has a curious soul and that Paris that has given him so much seems to have exhausted all things to say. Therefore, he decides to cross the Channel, towards another city, which is no lesser than Paris is when embracing changes: London. This time he moves with his head held high, as a young chef, he can chose the kitchen where he wants to work. The Punk movement is revolutionizing London, which is also experiencing the height of Thatcher’s ascent. This context welcomes Jean Luc. Here he is shown the darkest corners of the European cuisine, with a global glance, which is able to satisfy the tastes of the whole world. His stay here lasts one year, and that is sufficient; Jean Luc is on the move again, towards the rest of the world.
North Africa and the Caribbean are the lands of his culinary adventures where he is able to learn ethnic shades tied to spices and the use of fruit in more complex dishes. The adventures of the young cook, which could almost be taken out of a Salgari book, end in the culinary destination, which was growing and soon would have become the most desirable in the world: Italy.
Like a modern Garibaldi, armed with ladle and knife, Jean Luc arrives in Sicily. He begins his ‘Italian Connection’ and, on the beautiful island, he works in a thermal resort structure. It is only seasonal work, so he decides not to stay still during the winter months and heads north. This double life, with a double soul, fit quite well to Jean Luc’s spongy personality, which absorbs everything. In Milan, he works at the Principe di Savoia and following that, he works at the very prestigious holiday spot, Villa Serbelloni on Lake Como. Culinary traditions are mixed with Jean Luc’s use of French and European styles. Heavy cream, butter, oil and local specialties are part of the repertoire of the chef from Nantes.
Now a young man, he decides to settle down and quit the double life that was typical of the seasonal work. He falls in love with a Sicilian woman and decides to find a fixed home in the middle of the country, half way between north and south: Rome. During an award ceremony for the best hotel restaurants, Jean Luc meets the two Executive Chefs of the Lord Byron, who were present to receive an award. The two decide to include him in their team.
With an immense luggage of across-the-board knowledge and the world’s most important culinary traditions, he finds himself in the kitchen of the most starred hotel in Southern Italy. The Lord Byron at the end of the 80’s is like Hollywood. VIPs and stars walk through Parioli’s hotel hall. Jean Luc cooks for U2 and Michael Jackson. While working as an apprentice of two experienced cooks, he is able to refine his technique. The Labor Limae ends after three years. Jean Luc’s formation has been completed and the man Jean Luc wants to explode and be recognized as a high-level cook. He says good-bye to the Lord Byron and for 18 years, he leads the kitchen of the Hotel Aldrovandi.
The 90’s pass, fashions change and the world is constantly changing. The cities are now being filled with fast food restaurants, the super slow modems arrive, as well as the Asian cuisine. The consumerist society has grown exponentially and the politics of the “Hic et Nunc” settle quite abruptly. Tastes are changing. In reality, these change so much that they go back to what they originally were. Jean Luc knows this very well. After 18 years at direct contact with the Italian and international consumers, he understands that the request, as far as it concerns a chef of a luxury restaurant, is based on three elements: ingredients, innovation and tradition. These are not just three over-used words, but the three elements that characterize Jean Luc Fruneau’s cuisine to this day.
After returning to the Lord Byron, as Executive Chef, in 2016, the experienced “maestro” focuses on the research of the ingredient as the main actor of the dish. He aims at donating to the Italian palate the feelings of their youth’s home cooking and to the tourist the internationalized cut of the typical dishes. He can do this as he has a very wide repertoire to choose from.
At the moment, Jean Luc offers to the Lord Byron’s guests a seasonal menu which focuses on the lightness of the dishes with little fats. He is very careful to include also a wide selection of vegetarian dishes and wild fish. The aim is to give great attention to bringing out all of the worth of each product used. His cuisine is simple. Like all the great talents, he bases everything on the simplicity, which contains all substance.