The best culinary experience is full of emotion

Yoni Saada wants to make the most of life. The son and grandson of Parisian butchers became a Top Chef finalist in 2013 and now owns multiple restaurants. His lunchroom Bagnard currently has four different locations, and he’s also set up the sunny ‘Zaza’, where guests can enjoy Instagrammable Mediterranean street food. “Still, time for my family and myself is also very important!” he laughs. Admittedly, with two daughters and a love for sports, travel and art, Yoni can find himself a bit short on time. “As a chef, you’re always deeply involved in your work, but you need balance to convey that passion to your guests and the people you work with.”

“As a chef, you’re always deeply involved in your work, but you need balance to convey that passion to your guests and the people you work with.”

All over the world, the way of working in the foodservice industry has come under discussion. It’s no different in France, says Yoni. “I’ve always worked very hard, starting early in the morning, working long hours and finishing late. “We’re now paying more attention to people’s private lives and whether they’re, for example, an evening or a morning person. That’s a big change, and a necessary one.” He thinks for a moment and adds: “Some people think that it comes at the expense of quality, but I think the opposite is true. We have come to a point where we can raise the bar, while also looking at what suits someone’s personality.”

Chef de famille

That personal aspect is also reflected in the kitchen more and more, says Yoni. Among other things, he’s found that young chefs are becoming independent more quickly and don’t want to be ‘employees’ for as long. “I think that’s very nice to see”, says Yoni, “but, don’t be mistaken: running your own business takes a lot of energy! Especially if you’re young and maybe don’t have an awful lot of experience yet.” He’s not just referring to overcoming obstacles. “With every new restaurant, you’re creating a new family, too. That’s something I really enjoy, working with people you can really rely on. At the same time, you’re also a kind of parent to your team, and that’s a role you shouldn’t underestimate.”

To succeed in life

The most important thing Yoni wants to instil in chefs is the drive to succeed. In work and in life. “I want to give them the drive, the beauty and the emotion. As a chef, you start with something beautiful, a pure ingredient, for example, and you turn it into something sublime. It comes down to more than technique alone: it’s also about the beauty of great knife skills or placing a dish on a table with utmost attention for the guest.” Therefore, it’s important to also find something outside your work that stimulates that kind of passion. “Before you can really convey the emotion of the profession to your guests, you will first have to internalise that emotion yourself,” Yoni says.

Cooking for a more beautiful world

As the son and grandson of Parisian butchers, Yoni was taught the love for the trade from an early age. “Coming from that background, I learned three important things,” he says. “Always go the extra mile to give people a good experience, always opt for quality and, thirdly, I learned to enjoy the beauty of the right gesture.” They’re important pillars to Yoni, and they show in his approach. Choosing the right ingredients, truly paying attention to staff and guests and pouring his soul into creating the best experience, over and over again. “Quality is the best thing to have and to give,” he says. And to maintain quality, we have to keep adapting all the time. “The way we eat and how we handle food says something about who we are. The world offers so much beauty, both in the culinary field and beyond. I think it’s important to work together to make sure that it stays that way!”

Yoni Saada

Chef Yoni Saada owns multiple restaurants in Paris. Together with his 50+-strong team, he makes sure his dishes, from street food to fine dining, strike exactly the right chord with his guests.