With a signature French flair, Big Easy Group’s newest executive chef is all about cooking – not assembling – and putting the people first.
Freshening things up
It might be a cliché that fresh is best, but it’s one Alexis Besseau knows to be true.
Some of the Big Easy Group executive chef’s earliest memories of food include watching on as his mum pulled produce from the local market or family garden for their weeknight dinners.
“My mum was a stay-at-home mum, so she was always cooking,” Alexis tells CityMag.
“Whether I was helping her cook, going to the market with her or eating her meals, food was about sharing a moment together.”
It’s this exposure to food that drew Alexis to cooking at a young age and, by the time he was 13, he had enrolled in culinary school. (He quips he had to toss up between that and playing soccer.)
After donning aprons in the fine-dining kitchens of L’Arpège and Clos Maggiore, Alexis made the move from France to Sydney in 2013, where he headed Bathers Pavilion and French dining heavyweight Restaurant Huebert.
While Alexis agrees his experience spans serving in some venerable institutions over his short career, he tells us that the true definition of hospitality is often lost in the machine.
“Things like two-hour seating times and high turnovers can be frustrating,” he explains.
“I wanted to have a bit more time for my guests and a bit more time to deliver an experience because it’s frustrating when guests don’t have time to enjoy their meal, or they miss out on dessert.”
When Alexis flew over for a collaboration with House of George almost two years ago, Oliver Brown of Big Easy Group noted the chef’s desire to “cook for the people”, resulting in having Alexis cross the border to head King William Street’s French pop-up La Lousiane earlier this year.
“We wanted someone with a completely unique perspective and, as soon as we did that collab, we were keen on getting him here,” Oliver says.
“He’s traditionally trained and he’s such a talented and intelligent chef who really adds something to the South Australian [hospitality] industry.”
Two months into La Louisiane, Alexis’ position within the Big Easy Group took what the chef labels a “surprising turn”, adding the role of executive chef of The Stag and House of George to be at the helm of half of the group’s portfolio.
“He had the pedigree already, so for us it was a case of right time and place,” Oliver says.
“His transformation of House of George to big share plates, high-quality food in a fun and loud [environment] and the elevation of The Stag menu has been great.”
Now in its final months of operation, Alexis says La Louisiane, along with House of George and The Stag, have seen him return to the hospitality he loves, while plating up meals that move past “just assembling dishes”.
“We want to still get our basic ingredients from the best suppliers, it doesn’t matter if it’s for the pub or the French restaurant; while the complexity of the dishes we serve is different, we need to put the same love in,” he says.
“At La Louisiane, we’ve been able to take the best ingredients from Adelaide while using some imported ingredients for the typical French cooking.
“One of the first things I changed at [The Stag] was to make all the sauces from scratch and not buy in dry powder stocks and shit like that – excuse my French.”