Claude Bosi

Claude Bosi

Claude Bosi

A legend amongst his peers and known for combining highly skilled classical techniques with the world’s best produce, Claude Bosi is one of the best chefs in the UK today. After rising to the top at his restaurant Hibiscus, he now mans the kitchen at the two Michelin-starred Bibendum in London, cementing his place in the country's culinary hall of fame.

The UK has a lot to thank France for – as the birthplace of classical cooking, it has influenced and shaped our own cuisine in all sorts of ways. We should be especially grateful for Claude Bosi, who after earning his stripes in the kitchens of Paris and Lyon, decided to come to the UK to develop his style and further his career. It’s hard to tell whether he knew just how successful he’d be when he arrived on our shores seventeen years ago.

Growing up in central Lyon meant there were plenty of good restaurants for Claude to choose from, but it was his parents’ bistro that gave him his first taste of cooking. ‘My mother cooked while my father worked front of house,’ he explains. ‘It was a plat du jour setup, with two starters, two mains, two desserts and some cheese on the menu – all very simple. I was very, very lucky to be able to avoid school dinners and go home to have a proper lunch every day instead.’

But this didn’t mean he knew he was going to be a chef from day one. Claude came to the point in his life when he needed to decide what to do, and simply chose chef because he’d seen what it was like for himself. ‘I was never that good at school – I kept out of trouble but never really excelled. So when I was in a position where I needed to decide what I wanted to do, I chose to be a chef and go to catering college when I was fourteen.’ He obviously had natural talent, however, as he completed his apprenticeship at Leon de Lyon, a two Michelin-starred restaurant, before going back and forth between Paris and Lyon (as well as six months in the Caribbean) to work in some of the country’s best kitchens. These included L’Arpège, where he worked under Alain Passard and helped the restaurant gain its third Michelin star, and the legendary Restaurant Alain Ducasse, where he worked for a year.

Claude soon felt the need to spread his wings and set his sights on England. ‘I wanted to travel and to start learning the language,’ he says. ‘Also, England isn’t very far away from France – if it all went wrong I could always get the train home.’ He made the move to England in 1998 at the age of twenty-four to work as a sous chef at Overton Grange, a small restaurant in Ludlow, Shropshire. He was promoted to head chef within months, and in January 1999 the restaurant received a Michelin star.

In 2000, Claude left to open his own restaurant, Hibiscus, in the same town, and won a Michelin star just nine months later. In 2004 it won its second star, and Claude was well on the way to culinary stardom. However, he felt the need to move somewhere bigger than the sleepy market town of Ludlow, but didn’t want to lose Hibiscus, something he’d worked so hard for. So in 2007, instead of opening somewhere new, he decided to relocate the restaurant to the capital – despite risking his hard-earned stars.

‘I wanted a new challenge,’ Claude tells us. ‘London is one of the great cities of the world and I’d always dreamed of owning a restaurant there. I never really thought about losing the stars until I’d already moved the restaurant, but if I’d have thought it was a risk I would never have done it. You shouldn’t base things on stars, but I thought if we were good enough to get them in Ludlow then there was no reason we wouldn’t get them here. We just had to work very hard.’ The move was stressful and the Michelin inspectors only had two weeks after the restaurant opened to reassess Hibiscus, which meant the rating dropped down to one star in 2008. However, it regained its second star in 2009, an incredible feat and a testament to how talented and hardworking Claude and his team are.

It took Claude another two years until he was completely satisfied with his cooking style. ‘It’s only in the past five years I’ve really become happy with what I’m doing and know exactly what I want to do,’ he says. ‘I’ve had Hibiscus for fifteen years; for the first eleven I was cooking good food but I can’t say it truly represented my style. It’s only now that I have it the way I wanted it to be.

‘My style these days is very similar to what it’s always been like, but before there was a lot of complicated things on the plate which I’ve now taken off,’ he continues. ‘I went to Japan in 2008 and it was only there that I truly understood how important produce is. You always think you know, but in Japan it really hits you in the face. Ever since then I have had a new approach to cooking; get the finest produce and cook it as best you can.’

In 2012, Claude changed the look and feel of Hibiscus (‘it used to be a bit stuffy and traditional, and I wanted somewhere for people to relax and where the service is friendly’) to better reflect his approach to food, and built a development kitchen in the basement (‘so we no longer have to treat the diners as guinea pigs for some of our dishes’). The menu was also given a revamp. ‘We began focusing on two or three ingredients and made sure they were the best quality and absolutely bursting with flavour,’ he says. ‘It might have looked simple – someone might see a piece of fish and some puree and wonder why it is worthy of two stars, but to hell with them; it’s what we do. If it’s the best fish you can get and you make sure the flavours go together, then it will be perfect. I want people to see the simplicity in my cooking.’

In October 2016, Claude closed Hibiscus and moved onto Bibendum, a beautiful airy restaurant housed in the old Michelin headquarters in central London. Almost exactly a year later he was awarded two Michelin stars, a rare feat for any chef. It's here that Claude seems to have finally found his home, serving the food he always wanted to cook that's full of classical influences but still showcases his inimitable style. The dining room is flooded with natural light, making it one of the most beautiful places to enjoy a top-quality meal in the capital.

Many of Claude’s contemporaries believe he deserves a third Michelin star, and it can’t be too far from his mind when the results are released every year. But Claude says he is focused on other things. ‘I’m hoping for all sorts, but keeping busy is my main goal,’ he explains. ‘There’s lots of competition in London and it’s a tough market – places are closing every day.’

In 2018, Claude partnered with Rémy Martin to open La Maison Rémy Martin, a stunning Cognac cocktail and food pairing bar on the ground floor. Designed by Sir Terence Conran, it is one of the best places in London to enjoy cocktails and bar food, expertly created by Claude to pair with each drink. As part of a long collaboration with Rémy Martin, Claude has also become an ambassador for Rémy Martin XO.