Updated: Feb 1
Passionate about ecology, this Michelin starred chef advocates for a reconnection to nature and the importance of creating strong relationships with producers and farmers. His ethical cuisine is an ode to seasonality and locality and an exploration of the taste.
Photo: courtesy by Loïc Villemin
Coming from a family of restaurateurs, Loïc Villemin found his inspiration in Moselle, France where he opened his gastronomic restaurant, Toya, in 2010. This was after having made his mark in the most renowned Michelin starred restaurants. Toya was entirely designed by the Chef and his family to be in perfect symbiosis with his values. Loïc created bonds with the local producers, farmers, and fishermen in the 40 kilometers around. Awarded one Michelin star at a very young age, Chef’s priority today is to achieve ecological coherence and to create virtuous relationships with his entourage.
Accompanied for 3 years by the EcoTable label, Villemin is committed to offering a responsible, ethical, and local cuisine served in tune with the seasons. In response to the alarming environmental status, he has chosen to work in respect of the planet, while continuing its quest for deliciousness. As a true explorer of the taste of terroir, he is currently experimenting with new crops with a few farmers in Moselle.
Continuously improving its techniques and sourcing methods, Chef Villemin aims to create a completely self-sufficient restaurant.
Welcome, Loïc to Chefs for Impact!
By Loïc Villemin as told to Chefs for Impact
What is your experience navigating these difficult times, particularly for the restaurant industry?
"We’re talking about human life here and that is the priority. I think the rest is superficial. If closing down restaurants can save lives, then in my opinion there's nothing to discuss."
Have you thought about transitioning to take-away?
"The restaurant is quite off-center, so driving 40km to pick up your food to go, added to all the packaging needed to make it, it's just not in line with my very focused vision on sustainable gastronomy and ecology."
What is your definition of sustainable gastronomy?
"First of all, I believe in a zero waste and a zero plastic kitchen. Then, sustainable gastronomy obviously means cooking in season, and creating a virtuous human circle. I want to create strong relationships with our producers and have a positive impact on both the environment and the local communities. The restaurant industry is sadly not well known for its benevolence. There are archaic principles that no longer have a place in the kitchen. At Toya, we promote caring, we explain, train, educate, and give confidence, all while creating opportunities for the people we work with. »
Photo by Nicolas Decloedt
What responsible practices best represent your commitment?
"Our restaurant doesn't demand anything from the producers, our discourse is rather: 'you do us a favor with your quality products, what can we give you in return? For example, buying ungraded vegetables or surplus, saving the whey to make broth and ricotta. At Toya, the cooks serve the dishes themselves and seize the opportunity to highlight the people who have grown or raised what is on the plate. The restaurant's menu changes every week and everything is prepared last minute using fresh, local produce, according to what the producers deliver. We don't buy caged animals, no endangered fish, and we no longer work with sea fish. Instead, we buy the fish from a local pond. We want to raise awareness of the importance of eating local and fresh food. We implement new techniques as much as necessary to work with these new products. In the end, it’s delicious and much cheaper since there is no more price fluctuation in season, or even during the MOF competitions for example. With our local fisherman we agree on a yearly price – we double the price he used to sell for, but still 4 times less than sea fish. It’s a win-win."
"Our menus change every week, because nature constantly evolves and because the life of our producers is not linear. The weather varies every day. The vegetable garden has its whims and our producers', their vagaries."
Photo by Vincent Crepel
What are the challenges of this approach?
"It represents an opportunity to be even more creative! I love to play around the mono-product by declining it in all its forms. I am looking to create several gustatory emotions from a pure product. The possibilities of evolution and transformation are endless and it's exhilarating. Working with the product in its entirety is for me what represents sustainable gastronomy the best. It’s the gastronomy of the future."
"You have to respect the cycle of the seasons, keep the frustration of winter to feel the excitement of picking on sunny days."
Photo by Loic Ballet
How are customers reacting to these changes?
"The clientele of a starred restaurant has very specific expectations. Of course, we constantly have to explain, educate, and raise awareness; which makes it even more meaningful."
Do you see the responsible gastronomy movement picking up?
"The transformation has to be done little by little through in-depth work. The big institutions must get involved and breathe life into this change. There must be consistency and sincerity. We don't need any more ‘green marketing’ and we have to tell some Chefs that having a beehive is not enough to be sustainable. But we all know there will always be a “caviar clientele”."
What drives you?
"My restaurant, this ongoing never-ending project! Our goal is to eventually have our autonomy, to raise our own fish in the lake, that on the property golfers will be replaced by animals that we would raise in a global, circular and virtuous approach. My desire is to have a positive impact on the planet and on the people around me."
Photo by Nicolas Decloedt
Learn more about Toya: http://toya-restaurant.fr/