A propos du Comme chez Soi

Comme chez Soi celebrates its 95th anniversary

Made in Brussels

" Georges created Comme chez Soi, Louis developed it and gave it a style. Pierre drove it to the summit of  gastronomy, and Lionel offers today a subtle blend between innovation and know-how   "

Ten years after the opening, in 1936, Simone, who often accompanied her father on shopping trips, fell in love with a butcher's assistant from the Bogaerts butcher's shop near the Bourse. She became engaged to Louis Wynants and the restaurant moved to its present location on Place Rouppe.

 

Louis' moral and professional qualities quickly made him an indispensable

link to Comme chez Soi. A cook by nature and a wine enthusiast, the impetus he gave to the new restaurant was impressive. More and more prestigious customers came to discover Louis Wynants' tasty specialties with delight.

It was under his influence that Comme chez Soi took the road to haute gastronomy. Amongst other specialties, we owe him the creation of the

sole cardinal, lobster in his own way, pig's trotters or delicious

crepinettes with truffles.

 

In March 1939, Simone gave birth to a little boy named Pierre, who was destined to make the career he is now known for.

Ten years after the opening, in 1936, Simone, who often accompanied her father on shopping trips, fell in love with a butcher's assistant from the Bogaerts butcher's shop near the Bourse. She became engaged to Louis Wynants and the restaurant moved to its present location on Place Rouppe.

 

Louis' moral and professional qualities quickly made him an indispensable

link to Comme chez Soi. A cook by nature and a wine enthusiast, the impetus he gave to the new restaurant was impressive. More and more prestigious customers came to discover Louis Wynants' tasty specialties with delight.

It was under his influence that Comme chez Soi took the road to haute gastronomy. Amongst other specialties, we owe him the creation of the

sole cardinal, lobster in his own way, pig's trotters or delicious

crepinettes with truffles.

 

In March 1939, Simone gave birth to a little boy named Pierre, who was destined to make the career he is now known for.

In 1961, when Georges passed away, Louis and Simone found themselves in charge of a busy restaurant, but also had to deal with Pierre's education and his remarkable indifference to the school curriculum.

 

Faced with his son's modest performance, Louis Wynants sent him to a well-known hotel school in the Brussels area. This student's performance did not improve and he was even forced to leave the school under the orders of the headmaster, who blindly considered him a good-for-nothing cook.

 

This time, Louis got angry and decided that Pierre would work in the family restaurant from now on. He started off by washing the dishes. Later, he worked in the dining room, being watched from the corner of his father eye’s, who did not allow him to make any mistakes. At the age of 16, Louis decided to teach his son to the famous Maixent Coudroy at the Savoy and he stayed there for three and a half years. Pierre proved himself by putting all his heart and energy into his apprenticeship. As soon as his day’s at the Savoy were over, he went give a hand at the excellent Georges Michel restaurant « Auberge Alsacienne » in Kraainem. Pierre finally founded his way in.

 

At the end of the 1950s, Pierre left to do his military service in the navy. Meantime, Father Louis Wynants, used that time to make great contacts in the field of fine cuisine and wine.

 

After his demobilisation, Louis sent his son Pierre to England to learn the language for 3 months before bringing him back home to work with Raymond Henrion and his wife at the Moulin Hideux in Noirefontaine. After 7 months with this great and unanimously respected chef, Pierre headed to Paris where a position with Raymond Olivier, who was enthroned at the Grand Véfour in the Palais Royal, awaited him. He worked there for several months under the implacable eye of the Chef, then took advantage of the holidays to introduce himself to Claude Terrail at the Tour d'Argent, where he also did an internship. He finished his career in the kitchens of the Château du Belvédère, serving the Princes of Liège, before returning to Place Rouppe in 1961, at the age of 22.

95 ans Comme chez Soi

Stronger than ever, father and son now work as a duo, creating wonders at Comme chez Soi. Louis continually improves the menu, especially the wine list,

guided by his advisor and supplier Jules Vienne.

 

Little by little, he became a fine connoisseur, to the point of obtaining the highest distinctions in this field. Among these, he received the title of Doctor of Bordeaux wines and was awarded in 1964.

 

When it comes to cooking, Louis knows that the best way to learn is to go and see what the great chefs are doing. These culinary trips with Simone allowed him to make many friends in this closed world and to immerse himself in the great culinary principles. On his return, more than ever, what he wanted was a cuisine based on the freshest products, a simple cuisine devoid of artifice. He was, by family tradition and without knowing it, a precursor of this simple and light cuisine being praised praised for it today.

 

But what distinguished Louis Wynants above all was the particular care he took in serving his customers. He went to the market twice a day in order to have products of uneven freshness and he was sometimes seen going all over Brussels to find an extremely rare product.

 

This determination and love for cooking enabled him to win many favours such

as the first star in the Michelin Guide in 1953, the second with his son Pierre in

1966 (which is still valid today), the First Prosper Montagné Prize for Sommellerie

in 1963 and the Prize for the best wine list in 1970, as well as awarded for the first time in Belgium. Lastly, he was also the founder in 1969 of the Compagnie

des Maîtres Sommeliers des Vins de France where his son Pierre was also

being welcomed in 1971.

In the meantime, the restaurant's facade was transformed by the architects

Brunswick and Watelet.

 From 1966 onwards, after winning the Prosper Montagné prize, Pierre Wynants ran the kitchen on his own with brio, as the Visitors' Book and the dedications of the crowned heads, political, artistic and business personalities who frequented came to Comme chez Soi. As for Louis, he still takes pleasure in pampering his customers, but this time by managing the dining room.

 

At the same time, Pierre meets a charming and reserved young woman: Marie-Thérèse Dossche. The daughter of busy Oostakker and shopkeepers, swearing to herself three things: not to live in the city, not to live in a flat and above all not to work in a restaurant. But she didn't count on her love for Pierre, for whom she had to accept all three situations.

 

As soon as they were married in 1969, Marie-Thérèse took an interest in her husband's professional life, which she had no trouble adapting to. She is an enlightened companion for him and a gracious and smiling host for his customers. Together they brought two daughters to the world: Laurence and Véronique.

 

The death of Louis Wynants darkens the glow of success and happiness. For the family and the customers, it is a great loss. For Pierre, it is a tragedy; his guide and advisor is no longer there and doubt invades him.

 

Marie-Thérèse plays a decisive role here. She has faith in her husband and instils in him the strength that she inherited from her father. Not only does Pierre gradually banish these dark worries, but he also improves the appeal of Comme chez Soi by creating new dishes, all designed in the tradition of the house.

 

In turn, he was awarded the most coveted titles: Oscar of the Club des Gastronomes in 1972, he received the Clé d'Or Gault et Millau in 1975 as well as a third toque in their guide despite a cancer of the throat in 1972 and 6 months of loss of taste. And it was a third Michelin star in 1979, kept for 27 years, and a 19.5/20 in Gault et Millau in 1988 which were his greatest rewards. He was also named Commander of the Order of the Crown in Belgium. But it was France that honoured Pierre the most: a diploma from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Silver Medal of the City of Paris, the Diplôme des Arts et des Lettres awarded by Jack Lang, an Honorary Doctorate from the University of François Rabelais in Tours and, the icing on the cake, the Legion of Honour.

 

A few years later, major renovations were undertaken to make Comme chez Soi the restaurant it is today. The architect Robert Mahieu and the Simonis firm were commissioned to refurbish the place in the purest Art Nouveau style of Victor Horta. The work focused mainly on the décor and not really on increasing the restaurant's capacity. Indeed, as the Chef emphasises, "we must keep a human size and soul". The new restaurant was inaugurated in August 1988.

 

In the meantime, two little apprentices have made their appearance in the restaurant's kitchens. Rather than being bored waiting for their parents, Laurence and Véronique (who later graduated from the Lausanne Hotel School and went on to do an MBA in Solvay, and who now runs the other family businesses) prefered to come and help out during service. In any case, Laurence decided to study hotel management. She was well advised to do so because it was at the École hôtelière de Namur, at the end of the 1980s, that she met the man who, a few years later, would become her husband and the father of her children.

Lionel Rigolet does not come from the restaurant business as such. Despite having an uncle who was a caterer, nothing really predisposed him to cooking. In fact, it was towards the dining room that he headed when he met Laurence... But after training courses in the kitchen at the Moulin Hideux and at Romeyer, he was hired at Comme chez Soi as soon as he finished his studies. Lionel quickly surprised his father-in-law with his meticulousness and his sense of work. After his military service and an internship of a few weeks at Sir Anthony Van Dijck in Antwerp, to perfectionate his Dutch, Lionel Rigolet spent a year at Girardet in Crissier. This was followed by internships with Joël Robuchon, Gaston Lenôtre and the Auberge de l'Ill before returning to Place Rouppe in 1994 and finally marrying Laurence... This did not prevent him from going to England again with Michel Roux.

 

While Pierre Wynants leaves more and more room for his son-in-law's creativity in the kitchen, Laurence takes care of the restaurant's reception with the same mix of kindness and elegance as her mother has always done.

 

Happy parents of a little Jessica and a little Loïc, Lionel and Laurence Rigolet brilliantly reconcile their role as responsible managers with their family life. Thanks to their presence, which is as effective as it is indispensable, Pierre Wynants and his wife Marie-Thérèse can finally devote a little time to leisure activities that were too often ignored out of obligation in previous years.

In 2006, major work was undertaken to renovate the entire kitchen, the annexes and the famous table designed by François Schuiten and Claude Renard. Lionel Rigolet took over the kitchen, assisted by Laurence at the reception. When you say change, he meant it was a delicate period for him " During the period of takeover, I was quite nervous and this was seen in the team. That's why I started doing business coaching. Since then, I have been very different with my team. I get much better feedback. " Today, Lionel Rigolet is known as a Chef king of the sauce, offering a classic, evolving cuisine, a legacy from his father-in-law which he is more comfortable with now than when he has a grown up whils trying to found his way into the industry. He offers, on the menu, the emblematic dishes of the House that have made its reputation for 95 years now and, in the form of menus, more modern dishes that carry more of its identity. As his father-in-law Pierre Wynants says so well, Lionel has added to his cooking the concern for beautiful presentation. Pierre and Marie-Thérèse Wynants are also very happy with the way Lionel and Laurence continue to build the reputation of Comme chez Soi in Belgium, as well as abroad.

 

Indeed, Lionel Rigolet is still one of the few who occasionally walks the aisles of the Brussels morning market to develop new recipes. The variation of colours on his plates are very important for him, always looking for compositions which combines aesthetics and above all taste.

 

Comme chez Soi is also and above all a warm and friendly place thanks to the warm welcome and the extreme attention paid to customers by the teams of Laurence Rigolet.

 

In 2019, Lionel and Laurence decided to create Riwyne (for Rigolet-Wynants) with the help of Nathalie Didden, a space marked with their respective fingerprints where they propose another vision of their gastronomy. The perfect place which reflects their image, discreet and contemporary, in the heart of the House's wine cellar, reputed to be one of the most important around Europe.

 

Riwyne is a single table d'hôte that can accommodate a group of 8 to 12 guests and a menu that changes every month, priced at around 85 euros per person. They offer "tapas" for appetizers and a 3-course menu of simpler dishes based on the house tradition.

 

Behind the scenes, Laurence and Lionel Rigolet are working hard to prepare themselves for the future through, among other things, a special focus on sustainability and waste sorting. All waste is sorted: from organic waste, to glass, metals, paper/cardboard and plastics.  In order to go even further in the management and recovery of their waste, in 2020 the couple joined the Stalem organisation in the Stalingrad-Lemonnier district, which offers to pool waste and collect it by bicycle. It is also the creation of a more circular economy, more logical and in line with society.

 

More united than ever, Laurence and Lionel offer a blend of innovation and know-how that has been carried on since 1926 with a lot of love and respect for the previous generations. After studying hotel management in Coxyde and an internship as a sommelier at the Auberge de l'Ill, their son Loïc worked for two years in the dining room at Comme chez Soi and is currently a pastry chef. Like the previous generations, he has a real passion for oenology, he has just passed his WSET level 3 and is preparing to perfect his training abroad. As for their daughter Jessica, she is finishing her veterinary studies and her fiancé is studying accounting.

 

Beyond tradition, Laurence and Lionel are delighted to welcome the fifth generation who are about to continue the unique history of Comme chez Soi.

 

But all this beautiful history would never have been possible without the passion of all their teams who have, for the most part, remained faithful to the House. The Wynants/Rigolet family cannot thank them enough for all these years of collaboration and sharing.