WHERE DO FOOD LOVERS GO?

May 31, 2015

How Les Trois Gourmand made its way to the Philippines

When you’re in Saigon, surrounded by restaurants serving authentic Vietnamese food—and offering probably the best possible Vietnamese dining experience you can ever have, it’s highly unlikely to be looking for something else, like a French restaurant, for one.

But for businessman Duke Ng, he was simply following his heart, or rather, his appetite, when he insisted on finding Les Trois Gourmand in the middle of Ho Chi Minh City, while he and his wife Irene were strolling around town, looking for a place to celebrate his birthday.

There, they had “the meal of their lives.” Duke recalls, “It was a fantastic experience; the food was just perfect. And throughout the whole time we were eating, the restaurant’s owner Chef Gils was talking with us and the other diners.”

So it wasn’t just the French food he was looking for that Duke found at Les Trois Gourmand—he had a new-found friend in Chef Gils Brault. The two were in fact, very much alike in many ways.

A legendary French chef-sommelier, Chef Gils has spent over 30 years working with other known French chefs, including Alain Ducasse, and former French President Jacques Chirac. He ran his own restaurants on the French Riviera, before finally settling in the place he fell in love with, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

There, he brought with him his passion for French cuisine, and settled down with his own restaurant, Les Trois Gourmand in early 2000.

Meanwhile, Duke, a businessman with a passion for food, had similar plans in mind. The life-changing dining experience he had during his first visit at Les Trois Gourmand immediately made him want to bring home that authentic French experience to Manila.

Determined, Duke and Irene travelled back, countless times, to Vietnam, in hopes to convince Chef Gils to set up shop in Manila. And six years later, after numerous dinners together, hours-long talks on their favorite topic (food), and trips to each other’s hometowns, visiting their favorite food stops, Chef Gils finally agreed to open in Manila.

Together with two talented and young Filipino chefs, Jonas Ng, Duke’s brother, and Hasset Go, Chef Gils began preparations for Le Jardin Manila. The three flew to Saigon, where they stayed for six months to train. Chef Gils taught his young apprentices from morning until night, making cheese and bread, and everything else they could possibly create from scratch. Because according to Chef Gils, this was the only way they could control how their food will taste—just the way they want it.

Finally in May 2014, Le Jardin Manila opened. And it was a dream come true not just for the three chefs, but most especially, for Duke Ng. Little did he know that before him there were 10 other restaurateurs trying to convince Chef Gils to open in Manila, but it was with his team that the chef chose to work with.

Together with two talented and young Filipino chefs, Jonas Ng, Duke’s brother, and Hasset Go, Chef Gils began preparations for Le Jardin Manila. The three flew to Saigon, where they stayed for six months to train. Chef Gils taught his young apprentices from morning until night, making cheese and bread, and everything else they could possibly create from scratch. Because according to Chef Gils, this was the only way they could control how their food will taste—just the way they want it.

“We were both gourmands—somebody who likes to eat,” reveals Duke. “That’s why he wanted to partner with us, because we all loved to eat,” he says with a laugh, adding that together, they built up the French restaurant with the goal “for people to stay forever for lunch, and have some good wine, and not care about how long they’ve been there because they’re having such a good time.”

Le Jardin

Le Jardin Manila was conceptualized with the goal of having diners stay forever for lunch, and have some good wine, and not care about how long they’ve been there because they’re having such a good time.

Le Jardin

From morning until night, Chef Gils Brault and his staff would make cheese and bread, and everything else they could possibly create from scratch.