Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2017
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Current
- Le 1920, Le Chalet du Mont d’Arbois, Megève; Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse, Le Meurice, Paris; Auberge de la Pinsonnière, Quebec; Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville de Crissier, Crissier, Switzerland; Le Chalet du Mont d’Arbois, Megève
- Châtellerault, France
- French, some English
As Executive Chef of Four Seasons Hotel Megève, Julien Gatillon enjoys the enviable luxury of going with precisely what he knows for the property’s signature dining experience, Le 1920. Though he joined the Hotel in its pre-opening stages, he actually arrived as chef at Le 1920 five years earlier when the restaurant was part of the historic luxury Chalet du Mont D’Arbois of Edmond de Rothschild Heritage, the lifestyle company that tapped Four Seasons to bring its hospitality expertise to Megève. Two years after Gatillon took the helm at Le 1920, the restaurant was awarded its first Michelin star. Two years later, in 2016, he took it to two stars.
With Le 1920 now a highlight of the first Four Seasons mountain property in Europe, Gatillon wants new and returning guests to rest assured that he remains dedicated to the authentic French cuisine, modern presentation, graceful service, and even the culinary talent behind the concept he created. “We have a new space, and it is magnifique!” he says of Le 1920’s new indoor-outdoor setting, fashioned with assistance from Baroness Ariane de Rothschild and the renowned designer Pierre-Yves Rochon. “With the Hotel behind us and enthusiastic clientele, I’m inspired to take the restaurant even further.”
Simplicity has always been key to the cuisine at Le 1920. Gatillon relies upon the best and noblest all-natural seasonal ingredients for his seasonal menus, presenting well-balanced cuisine with clear taste and minimal ornamentation. “I have never been one for too much ‘bling-bling.’ A successful plate combines the best produce cooked very well and perfectly harmonized with a good sauce, a nice garnish, and nice seasoning. Other things are not important on the plate.”
There are many other things of importance on Gatillon’s plate these days, however. Beyond Le 1920, he oversees culinary operations and menu creation for four additional Hotel dining and drinking experiences, all with indoor and outdoor seating. They include a Japanese Pan-Asian restaurant and sushi bar; Bar Edmond, a destination for oenophiles and cocktail connoisseurs with small bites to match; the Lobby Lounge for all-day refreshment after the slopes or the golf course; and the cosy Cigar Bar, offering fine cigars and spirits before glorious mountain and valley views. The Hotel also has a two-level cylindrical Wine Cellar, a hotspot for private dinners and tastings showcasing 10,000-plus bottles.
Gatillon recruited Sous Chefs and Pastry Chefs to aid every operation. Meanwhile, he splits his time between all of the restaurants, overseeing sourcing of ingredients, the kitchen, and the training and encouragement of the talent therein. The opportunity to pass along is expertise is, he says, “very important to me.”
So too is sourcing seasonal product. Gatillon works with many producers while also securing ingredients from the Rothschild family, well known as epicureans, whose wide network provides olive oil from South Africa, honey from east of Paris, venison from a 3,700-acre (1,500 hectare) farm in Favières-en-Brie in Île-de-France, and so much more.
Gatillon grew up roaming the countryside around Châtellerault in the Vienne region of France. He would garden, fish and hunt with his father and grandfather, and when they returned home with their catch his mother and grandmother “would always be cooking. All of my family loved exploring the best local produce, and I’ve sought it out in my travels ever since.”
Gatillon landed his first job at age 16 in the kitchen of Chalet du Mont D’Arbois before moving onto Hôtel de Ville De Crissier in Switzerland, owned by the famed and belated Philippe Rochat. There he learned the basics under Franck Giovannini and Benoit Violier, the latter a Meilleur Ouvrier de France whom Gatillon remembers as his “spiritual father” for firing his passion for seasonal ingredients and authentic taste. The young cook spent four years sharpening his own personal culinary style at the restaurant, and at Violier’s encouragement began competing in cooking contests.
Next he headed across the Atlantic to spend a year working at Auberge del la Pinsonnière, Relais & Chateaux in Quebec. Then, in 2010, Gatillon landed a spot in the kitchen of Yannick Alléno at Le Meurice in Paris, where he rose from chef de partie to sous chef in just one year. “It was a demanding experience, but very beneficial in shaping my skills,” he recalls, noting Alléno’s requirement that sous chefs prepare new dishes every single day to be tasted and critiqued. “We made a lot of test dishes. Yannick would taste them and say, ‘I like it,’ or ‘I don’t.’ I really learned how to be a chef in this way.”
Finally, after two years in Paris, at the age of 26, Gatillon was offered his first Executive Chef position at Le 1920. And the rest, as they say, is culinary history.
All of 31 when he joined Four Seasons, Gatillon is delighted to continue calling the mountainous region around Megève his home. “I love to fish and pick mushrooms in the forest,” he says. “There are so many things I like about summer and winter in the mountains. To spend time with my family and to be in the kitchen and outside enjoying myself is all I need.”