The chef’s journey

Understanding and entering Jean’s world involves getting to know the man behind the chef, the enfant terrible behind the cook, who is sensitive to nature and its teachings.

In those days, the bourgeoisie seasonally gathered in the many thermal baths that flourished all around Lac du Bourget. The grandson of hoteliers, Jean Sulpice professes his love for this environment, which has been his playground since he was ten years old.

As far back as I can remember, my greatest pleasure was to walk around the cold rooms, greet the guests, open the lift door or the room doors. Earning my very first tips, I slowly learned the trade, the staff eating before each service, the attention to detail; like the gravel terrace, which had to be raked every morning to leave it spotless. I didn’t feel like I was “helping out” or “doing a favour”, it was an environment in which I was perfectly at ease and happy. Looking back, it was a chance to grow up in such an effervescent environment, looking behind the kitchen doors and seeing the brigade rush to wash the salad, skin the meat, or carefully preparing custards in which without any hesitation I often dipped a finger. All this merry commotion brought a smile to my face, and to be frank never was intimidating to me. Even when my grandfather received huge quantities of wine barrels that had to be bottled and then stored. None of it felt like difficult work, in my mind, all of this was a game.


Understanding and entering Jean’s world involves getting to know the man behind the chef, the enfant terrible behind the cook, who is sensitive to nature and its teachings.
Portrait en noir et blanc de Jean Sulpice
The Chef
Jean Sulpice

15 years

Unknowingly, this incessant ballet of the hotel and restaurant business unfolding before his eyes was the initial spark of his calling. A first taste for a lively little boy who as always on the move. When Jean settled down behind a desk to listen to the teacher, the rhythm was somewhat less intense…

My school experience was bland. I had this feeling that what I was learning there was less useful than at the hotel, and very quickly I fell out of sync. When the school bell rang, I could hardly wait to see the chickens, the ducks, to continue building my tree house. Sometimes I would go up the road in a hay trailer, sometimes come down on a tractor behind the cows. That’s how, with only the outside world in mind and falling behind on my schooling, I started working at just 15 years old. But that didn’t matter, I didn’t care. Besides, the only thought that came to my mind at that time was: finally. Finally, I could use my hands, because during my first work placement I could only cook with my eyes! I had spent my life watching everything, observing, but I had yet to actually practice.

Jean began to replicate the gestures of cooks whom he had observed so much during his adolescence. Working with his hands opened up a world of possibilities for him. During his training courses, he learned about the hierarchy of cooking, discipline and values. On his way home, on his scooter, his mind would wander, look beyond. Soon another valuable experience came along, this time with a starred chef.

I can still picture this chef, working on a rather simple chicory salad. But when I tasted it, it’s as if it was from another dimension. How could he magnify a chicory leaf to such an extent, bringing so much texture and complexity? I was awe struck. After that, I simply couldn’t sleep. I had to digest a lot of information each day, but as I learned more and more, my excitement grew! One evening after the service, I decided in front of the chef to seal my future in five simple words: “I want to do this”.

Jean Sulpice en montagne face à la nature
The nature
Eternal passion

15 years

Captivated by the bustling furnaces, overflowing with curiosity and infinite questions, young Jean would have never imagined that fate would wear a big black hat. The founder of the Blue House, plant lover and great architect of Savoy terroir, immediately fascinated Jean. But it is not easy to attract the attention of a maestro capable of whispering to mountain plants and singing their praises on a plate.

Back then, Marc Veyrat was already highly publicised in the media. I thought there was no way I could get into his establishment. In my brother’s office, I had found a shaded blue paper that echoed the colour of his restaurant. I really needed to catch his eye, so I wrote my cover letter on this paper, much to the chagrin of my parents who were always preaching: “You should never write a cover letter on coloured paper!” Anyway, I ended up being hired, but I never found out if my paper choice had been a deciding factor. There I was, working in a brigade dedicated to excellence. Everybody was incredibly talented, and learning about the level of perfection we were aiming for was a slap in the face. Despite my two years of apprenticeship, jumping right into this pool of new scents and knowledge felt like a blank slate, which only served to boost my motivation further. Until then, I used to cook from a book, carefully following a recipe, whereas at Marc Veyrat’s, we were literally creating the cuisine as we went along. Under his guidance, I learned to imagine, conceive, interpret everything that surrounds us; I became sensitive to this kind of magic when a single element on a plate no matter how small is enough to create an unforgettable dish.

This magic that filled him with wonder – expressing oneself through the plate, the precision of emotions created – is something Jean assimilated with great delight. Then military service came along. The native of Aix-les-Bains found himself in Paris. Oscillating between his state obligations and shifts in prestigious restaurants, Jean soon realised the link between gourmet cuisine and art.

Living in the capital brought me a breath of fresh air. As a Savoyard in Paris, I felt I had landed on a different planet. I explored parks, museums, restaurants. I scrutinised restaurant menus. I imagined, I drooled even. I always tried to get a precise idea of the dishes they had invented. At that moment, I understood that there was no such thing as cuisine, but cuisines. Each chef expresses their personality, their life experience, their universe.


Plat Omble Chevalier de Jean Sulpice, au restaurant gastronomique
Plat signature
Omble chevalier, beurre Maitre d'hôtel à l'épicéa


Following his Parisian experience, Jean did not immediately return to Savoy. He first made a stop in the Luberon at Édouard Loubet’s establishment where he continued to assimilate terroir cuisine: when a recipe is based on what grows in the garden. He learnt to capture sea spray, to better translate nature into his dishes, before returning to Marc Veyrat’s in Megève where he met with sommelier Magali. It was love at first sight. Driven by his boundless ambition and need to understand other universes, other territories, Jean categorically refused to focus on a single culinary style, always thinking about what comes next. He bounced around France, but also abroad, where he got his start as a kitchen help.

Something I really enjoyed about leaving the country was the language. I made no effort to learn how to speak and adapt to the culture. I didn’t want to be noticed, I was a mere kitchen help, on a mission, observing every gesture to reproduce them. No matter what anyone might say, the language barrier was actually an advantage, because by making myself hermetic to the outside world, my eyes could work without respite. Although it was hard at times, my learning process remained untroubled. It was all about the cooking, always the cooking, only the cooking.

Then came the time of the ascent, taking the head of the rope team. At the age of 23 and at an altitude of 2,300m, Jean and Magali opened their first restaurant, with a purposeful mantra: bring gastronomy to a ski resort. A difficult start, marked by doubts and tensions. A flood of questions and challenges that the young couple overcame together. Magali in the dining room, Jean in the kitchen.

In Val Thorens, I wanted to design and develop my own culinary identity. That was my biggest challenge. When you get down to it, even if you give everything, it can’t be achieved quickly because you still don’t know yourself well enough. Introspection takes time and you can find yourself preparing dishes that are only a pale imitation of the chefs you’ve encountered along the way. We arrived up there on the mountain, with a complete blank slate… Everything had to be invented. And slowly but surely, we found everything we were looking for.

Jean Sulpice cueille des herbes en montagne en hiver dans la neige
a different climate



2 Michelin stars later, now at the head of the highest gastronomic restaurant in the world, the Sulpices have only experienced winter. Very much like an incomplete score, working across all seasons is becoming more and more tempting. A wish that would soon be granted. Magali and Jean were entrusted by Charlyne Bise with a hundred-year-old legendary establishment: the Auberge du Père Bise. From a simple drinking establishment to a genuine institution, from 1903 to the present day, this establishment sits by the crystalline waters of Lake Annecy, an invitation to marvel. The beginning of the Sulpice era – even though the couple was determined to preserve the Bise family’s legacy and considerable influence. With their two children, Paul and Sophie, Jean and Magali have started a new chapter in their lives. Magali manages the hotel with modernity and simplicity. The establishment was listed as a must-see property in the Relais & Châteaux guide. Jean is responsible for building a new gastronomic table, and then that of his bistro. Together, they took on the gamble of restoring the Auberge’s former glory, while remaining accessible thanks to the 1903 Bistrot and the Père Bise Boutique. By the end of the first year, the Auberge du Père Bise was awarded 2 Michelin stars, rewarding their hard work and perseverance. Around that time, Jean Sulpice was named Chef of the Year by Gault&Millau.

Charlyne Bise was planning her succession. I heard about it but I didn’t want to go. The Auberge du Père Bise has always impressed me greatly, by its history, its experience, the personalities it has hosted. It’s a spacious establishment, difficult to manage, and so it’s no secret that I didn’t feel up to the task. Days later, we felt it was the end of a cycle in Val Thorens, and they found the right words to convince us. Magali and I realised our potential, our ability, and we took the dive into the lake. Today, Auberge du Père Bise is a living and breathing place dedicated to sensory pleasures. Every day, we feel an immense respect for the Bise family. Just seeing the Gratin de Queues d’Écrevisses (Crayfish Tail Gratin) created in 1925 by Marguerite Bise garner so much interest among all generations fills me with wonder.

With each new season, Jean Sulpice nurtures his eternal passion for nature. One must at all times be attentive, sensitive to Her moods, Her movements, Her murmurs. Listening to better honour Her and translate Her marvels into the plate. An infinite quest for taste, emotion and, of course, sharing.

You don’t become a chef on your own. Even if you want to push your cuisine as far as you can, you are nothing without others. You quickly realise that it is a privilege and an honour to be able to count on your producers, suppliers and brigades. They are the ones who bring excellence to the highest level, and for that, I can only thank them for their amazing daily commitment. Each day is like a new ascent on a different mountain. During the climb, you discover new plants, you meet different animals and then, at the top, you get to enjoy a view, a life experience never seen before. You can look back and appreciate the path you have taken, to always remember where you came from. And although the wind blows hardest at the top, it is a good reminder that we can fall back down at any instant. In 1995, I saw my brother then a top-level athlete lose the use of his legs. He was on the verge of becoming world champion, and all of his hopes vanished in an instant. It was a bitter lesson, and one I always keep in mind.

Sport, competition and challenges are essential elements in a chef’s life, and something they can easily apply to gastronomy. Jean is a lifeaholic, always trying to satiate his endless appetite by pedalling at high speed, following the seasons, making sure he never misses anything. He knows too well that no two seasons are alike.

I still don’t feel like I’m working. This job still finds ways to surprise and dazzle me. There’s nothing more beautiful, in my opinion, than sharing emotions. To surprise someone and bring happiness through a dish is an incredible joy to me. All the while preserving authenticity and simplicity. In this sense, my passion is constant, and never falters, even when the world comes to a standstill. Today, I owe a lot – everything in fact to my family, to Magali, to my children. They define me as much as those who allow me to live to the fullest, I’m thinking of course of the fishermen, the producers, the breeders with whom I collaborate: my very dear “Team Sulpice”. Thanks to them, I can remain a child unable to sit behind a desk, always on the move, guided by the forests and mountains, amazed by nature and its seasons. This same child that is still building his tree house in the woods.


Jean et Magali Sulpice au bord du lac d'Annecy
Lake Annecy
The feet in water