His early years
"The first time I went into the kitchen of our family restaurant was the day my parents brought me back from the maternity ward." Later, Sébastien went to hotel school in Lyon and earned his stripes working with top chefs. When he returned to Laguiole his parents had left the village to open a new restaurant nearby, out in the country at Le Puech du Suquet. They were hiring, and Sébastien started work as a pastry chef. He was 23.
His approach to cooking
Sébastien’s cuisine comes from an osmosis between his surroundings, his eye for structure and his way of thinking. The Bras way of thinking. "Our customers come here to experience a little of the Aubrac and our history, and they seem receptive to it," he says with a grin. Sébastien creates a new menu for every lunch and dinner service and has no idea what surprises he will delight diners with until the last minute.
From an early age, Michel Bras encouraged his son to become part of the creative process, giving him a say on every aspect of what went on in the kitchen. "My own experiences counted for something of course, but we were born in the same place and have the same formative experience in common." Father and son have worked together closely, never falling out or needing to spend time apart.
The Aubrac region, which is in his bones and provides generously for the table. The light there is bewitching, creating a soul-soothing atmosphere, and the vast sweeps of countryside stretch to the sky with a pleasing monotony.
The Aubrac is an essential, providing permanent inspiration. It's the basalt pedestal on which Sébastien Bras stands to reach his utterly liberated and contemporary interpretation of his homeland and by extension his art.
His way of relaxing
On occasion he travels to far-flung places, but most often he goes for long rides on his mountain bike along the Aubrac Plateau. His favourite run is the little botanical trail along the stream near the shepherd's hut at Les Planes, just outside Laguiole.
Sébastien has a penchant for very basic produce like pork, potatoes and peau de lait, the skin that forms on hot milk. He likes to surprise his diners with his 'little nothings', inspired by the 'gastronomic desert' of flowers, herbs and cows that the Aubrac once was. His 'Niacs', little nuggets of strong flavour created from pastes, powders and oils, are also part of his inventive 'now' cuisine, which uses produce gathered or bought from the market that day.
The best thing on the menu
His famous potato gaufrette, one of the best-selling desserts at the Bras restaurant, but also his cauliflower tart* flavoured with plum stone oil and a shaving of fresh tome cheese. And from the wine list? One of Sébastien's favourites of course: a Marcillac AOC red, grown in the north of the département, or perhaps a Gaillac made by the Plageoles family. Because supporting those local producers who also strive for excellence is also part of the Bras way of thinking.
The price of lunch chez Sébastien Bras
The 'Aubrac' set menu, from €140.
* Sébastien Bras’ cauliflower tart was presented at the 2016 Omnivore festival, an event that attracts the crème de la crème of avant-garde cuisine, at which Sébastien Bras was hailed 'Créateur de l’année' in 2016.