On August 31, 2020, Les Grandes Tables de Suisse announced a new chapter in the association’s 60-year history. At the Restaurant des Trois Tours (Fribourg), led by Alain Bächler, the association honored its outgoing President, Pierre-André (Pierrot) Ayer. For 16 years he served on the committee, with the last seven years as president. This year, however, Ayer decided to graciously step down in order to make way for a change in leadership. He spoke with great emotion during the ceremony about his time with the association.
In 2017, Pierrot Ayer famously closed his restaurant, Le Pérolles (Fribourg). Then, two years later he reopened at another location and with a new concept. This new project has him partnering with his son, Julian. Their two-level establishment includes fine dining at Le Pérolles in the basement, while on the ground floor, you’ll find a cafe, bistro and gourmet market known as Le Petit Pérolles.
What is Les Grandes Tables de Suisse?
Les Grandes Tables de Suisse began in 1960, but under a different name. Founded in 1960 by René Gessler, a publisher in the canton of Neuchâtel, the association started out as “La Route suisse des plaisirs de la table.” The goal was to create a directory of Switzerland’s top restaurants. For example, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the association’s founding, it published the “Passeport Gastronomique,” a guidebook of Swiss fine dining.
In the 1990s, the association rechristened itself with the name we know today: Les Grandes Tables de Suisse. André Jaeger began serving as president of the association in 1992 and remained in this position for over 20 years, until the election of Pierrot Ayer.
When I spoke with Claude Frôté of Restaurant Au Bocca (Saint-Blaise), he talked about the importance of the association having independence from outside influences, such as the press. It developed as a group of chefs, passionate about their work, who wanted to support one another. Together, the association strives to promote Swiss gastronomy and to seek constant improvement in this sector.
New Plans, New Members for Switzerland’s Grandes Tables
Going forward, Guy Ravet will now serve as the President of Les Grandes Tables de Suisse. At his family’s restaurant, L’Ermitage des Ravet (Vufflens-Le-Château), he shares the kitchen with his father Bernard. This well-known restaurant currently has 19 points from GaultMillau and one Michelin star.
Under Guy Ravet’s leadership, the Les Grandes Tables de Suisse will undergo some changes, building upon the work of Pierrot Ayer. Overall, he wants to bring more chefs together from all linguistic regions of the county. In addition, the association will redesign its website and also launch a brand new bi-annual magazine, with its first edition planned before the end of the year.
During the event, the association also welcomed seven new members:
- Grégoire Antonin (Valais), Restaurant le Nouvo Bourg in Saillon
- Mathieu Biolaz and Nelson Bonvin (Valais), Restaurant Les Touristes in Martigny
- Matthias Brunner (Zürich), Hotel Sternen Wangen in Dübendorf
- Ueli Kellenberger (St. Gallen), Hotel Restaurant Rössli in Bad Ragaz
- Simone Lipani (Graubünden), Hotel Meierhof / Restaurant Jarno in Davos
- Jean-Sébastien Ribette (Vaud), Restaurant les Ateliers in Vevey
- Roberto Domenico (Ticino), L’Hôtel Splendide Royal in Lugano
To help commemorate this milestone in the association’s history, the renowned French chef Guy Savoy was invited as the guest of honor. Known as the chef behind the number one restaurant in the world, according to La Liste, Savoy has a Swiss connection. His father’s family hails from the canton of Fribourg. Taking a break from his 3-Michelin starred restaurant in Paris to attend this event, Savoy praised Pierrot Ayer and welcomed Guy Ravet to his new role with the association.
Fribourg’s Culinary Specialties to Celebrate Pierrot Ayer
Following the formal presentation, we moved outside to the garden of the Restaurant des Trois Tours. There, we enjoyed a buffet of culinary specialties from the canton of Fribourg. This included Cuchaule, Poire à Botzi, fondue with Vacherin fribourgeois AOP and perch filets from Lake Murten.
Perhaps my favorite table at the buffet came from Suard. The local bakery created an irresistible dessert buffet that overflowed with sweet treats from this region: Tarte au vin cuit, Croquets, Pain d’anis fribourgeois, Bricelets, and Gâteau du Vully.
For current news from Les Grandes Tables de Suisse, you can follow the association via its website, Facebook or Instagram. A chef working in Switzerland that wants to join this association must complete an application for consideration. If accepted, the chef makes an annual financial contribution to benefit the activities of the association.