As Sketch celebrates its third Michelin star, co-founder Pierre Gagnaire describes the long and winding road he has travelled.
Words by Reyhaan Day
Pierre Gagnaire is on the tail-end of a whistlestop trip to London, to catch up with his team at Conduit Street’s Sketch.
The venue houses a number of eating and drinking spaces including The Lecture Room & Library, which was recently awarded a third Michelin star.
Sketch was the brainchild of restaurateur Mourad Mazouz and Gagnaire.
Panned on opening, it has defied the odds to become a somewhat unlikely institution in Mayfair.
And Gagnaire has been crucial to the venue’s success.
Over the years, he pioneered a form of cooking that takes from French haute cuisine.
But he has also pushed the boundaries of flavour and culinary aesthetics.
And, he has installed a team, including head chef Johannes Nuding, that ensures the success of each service during his absence.
“The machine is running smoothly. The outline of the story is there. The team is very strong,” he says.
“We never said: ‘We want three Michelin stars!’” he says.
“We worked and we tried to be honest, to be serious. But the first thing was to survive.”
“When Sketch first opened, the English were not nice to us. I don’t think they understood us.
“But, also, we didn’t understand where we wanted to go. We wanted to create a place with fun, with music, with art and food… with a mix of people.
“There’s a restaurant. Downstairs is the brasserie. We have a bar that isn’t very expensive.
“That was our goal: to create a grand mix with many inspirations. We spent a lot of money on this place. Now, we are very proud and happy with this distinction from Michelin.
“But for us, it’s the cherry on the cake – because the restaurant is fully booked. It has been a real success for about five years,” he said.
Losing it all
Gagnaire has restaurants across the globe, in cities including Paris, Tokyo, Dubai and Seoul.
But he was not always so successful. He had to close his restaurant in Saint-Étienne, France, in 1996.
“I lost everything. When you are 46 and you have nothing, it’s scary. But I was able to make money with my work again.”
Gagnaire left Saint-Étienne for Paris and, with the help of friends, launched another restaurant on rue Balzac, soon regaining his three-star status.
And as for London?
“It would be impossible to do Sketch in another city. London is the perfect place. Mayfair is the perfect area for this project. I am so happy to work here. We love this city.”
Find out more about Sketch from their website: www.sketch.london.