乐展林, Julien David Le Gentil, 44 years old
French chef, sommelier, lifestyle consultant
“I’m not a chef. I became a chef. I’m still learning. I know my limits. I never claim and I will never claim to be the best chef in town.”
I’ve been working as a chef for almost three years now. My original profession was and still is a sommelier. I’ve been in the wine business for about twenty years. Apart from that, I’ve been teaching French lifestyle to Chinese and foreigners. Coming from France, food and wine are a part of me. My hometown is Brest, it is situated in the West of France on the Atlantic Ocean. As I’m used to saying, if you go forward from there, the next city you will find is New York.
So far, I have been in China for 12 years: my first time in the country dates back to 2006, when I moved to Shanghai to work as a sommelier at fine dining places, such as ‘Bund 18’ and ‘Sens&Bund.’ However, the main reason to come was because I wanted to live with my wife who is Chinese. We’ve been in a relationship for 19 years now since we met in Dublin. We have two beautiful daughters, one is 9 and the other is 7 years old. During this period, I went back to France only three times to visit part of my family and to allow my daughters to see their grandparents. To be honest, I don’t feel the need to return to my country because everything I care about is right here with me. “Home is where you feel good, not where you were born.”
My life in Dalian started in 2011. By then, I was working as a lifestyle consultant. Since I’ve been cooking for a long time and having gained some knowledge from some chefs I worked with, I decided to open up a French restaurant called “Aux Petits Plaisirs” in July 2015. The first one was too small, therefore we moved to the one in Shahekou 6 months ago. Even if this place is not in the city centre or in a popular area, my opinion is that “it’s all about what you serve to customers, not about the location.” That’s why we have many regulars coming back. In particular, 70% of them are Chinese, while the rest are foreigners. A lot of the ingredients I use are imported, like butter, cream, or milk, and my clients like the genuine taste of my food. The fact that I kept the same original French cuisine made my restaurant successful. The best compliment I was given is “it reminds me of what my mother used to cook.”
My favorite thing to cook is definitely desserts, because you need precision and technique to make good ones. The apple cake is never missing from my menu. It is one of the dishes that customers order more often, along with some main courses, such as mushroom tartines, snails from Burgundy, pork rillettes, quiche, cheese plate, and sausage. When I have time, I also like to add some specials to the menu. Apart from food, I keep a selection of around 60 wines in the cellar, half whites, half reds and most of them obviously from France.
I work with only other three people and I have no intention to expand. “The word domination is not for me. We are small, and we want to remain small. It’s all about the package.”
The place has a chill cosy atmosphere. Here, you won’t find a Louis XVI style or French music in the background. I designed everything according to my taste and I chose the art myself. I love abstractionism and all the paintings you see are either by French artists or by my father who is an artist as well.
I like to think of my restaurant as a combination of Starbucks and fine dining. I mean, people can come here for coffee or sit outside with their lemonade but they can also enjoy a dish of snails or foie gras.
My job keeps me very busy but I can’t complain. I like what I do and I’m lucky to do it. However, I keep my Sunday afternoons and Mondays free so that I can spend some quality time with my family.
In my future plans, there is the intention of creating another concept soon, but I can’t reveal you anything about it yet…
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