As a conductor directs his musicians Ludovic Mailletas manages his restaurant team; with a nod, raise of an eyebrow or simple eye contact, he directs his staff around the room without saying a word resulting in the harmonious melody of a perfect dining experience. Born into the hospitality industry his passion for his work never wanes as he strives to attain perfection for the clients of the restaurants he runs.
Tell me a little about your background.
To be honest the restaurant business is my life. I grew up in restaurants as it was my parents’ trade. From when I was small I would help my parents, I would carry bread and water to the tables for them. We always spent our Sundays together but whilst working! I can remember the first time I was given a tip; it was the Prefect of the Dordogne of that time, he gave me 200 Francs which as a huge tip for then! I never really thought about it, I knew that I was going to continue in that line of work so I chose my studies accordingly. At 20 years old I moved to Switzerland to work in one of the biggest bistros there. In a day we served between 800 to 1000 meals! It was a lot of hard work but it paid off because at 21 I was promoted to maître d’hôtel with a team of 25 waiters to manage. I then went to England where I worked at Hanbury Manor, a 5* hotel and country club and then I moved to the Michelin starred, Bohemia Restaurant in Jersey where I took on my first position of restaurant director.
What made you come to the Château des Vigiers?
I’m from this part of France, my parents are still here and the 13 years of working abroad was a sacrifice I had to make vis-à-vis my family but it was necessary for my career. When I became a father I really started to miss my family, I wanted my sons to spend as much time as possible with their grandparents so that they could have the same upbringing as me. When I heard that there was an opening at the Château des Vigiers I jumped at the chance because also it would mean I could move closer to my family.
You obviously love your job?
Absolutely! I would go as far as to say that it’s my passion! I love coming to work and go out of my way to make our clients feel welcome. I am a perfectionist and the château has a reputation to keep up so I expect my team, and myself, to work to a very high standard. However, this doesn’t mean that the client should be kept at a distance. We are here to help people live an experience they cannot create at home; the way they are greeted, to always having a smile for them, to be there when necessary but to discreetly slip into the shadows when no longer needed. These might seem like small things but they make all the difference.
You speak a lot about your Mother.
I have the greatest admiration for my mother. She is my inspiration in both in my life and my career. She has always worked hard putting my needs, and our family’s needs, before her own. Despite her own problems, she has always been there for me, but over time I have never really known how to tell her the infinite love that I have for her, I hope to be able to do that now that I’m back.
Now for some less serious questions! What is your favourite savoury dish?
Pig ear soup and roasted woodcock! I bet that’s surprised you?
Your favourite dessert?
I don’t really like desserts, I prefer cheese.
You advise customers on wine, do you have a favourite wine?
It’s difficult to say, wine evolves, lives and changes with age, much like ourselves. When you taste a wine you have to take everything into account; its geographical origins, its age, its creation thanks to the knowledge and savoir faire of man, the experience it has acquired throughout its life, its character, everything. Wine is so complex it is hard to describe. Just to see it dancing in the glass, the colours it gives off, its unique scent, and to finish the ecstasy of finally tasting it. All your senses are awakened when you drink wine.
There is a beautiful sentence that sums up the sensations wine awakens in people, ‘Wine is like love, it makes you dream and become intoxicated even before it being consumed.’
As you can see I really cannot chose just one wine.
Along the same lines, what is your favourite champagne?
Dom Pérignon Rosé.
Your favourite place?
Either on a golf course or river trout fishing.
Your main quality?
I am honest and I do my best to be a good example for my children.
Your biggest fault?
I am impatient and very exigent.
Your idea of happiness?
To be with my family, my children and my wife.