First thing you’ll notice about Chef Bruno, in addition to being a born explorer, is he is a bona fide French chef. For this pedestrian Southern-bred gal, I could hardly contain my delight. In my world, I was speaking with Chef Hubert Keller himself, and in Chef Bruno I found charm, humility, and a self-effacing personality I admire from afar regarding Chef Keller.
Chef Bruno grew up in Condat-sur-Vienne in Central France and was greatly influenced by his grandmother, Jeanne, who perfected her dishes for numerous family and guests using just a pot over a fireplace and fresh ingredients from the farm. I laughed when Chef Bruno mentioned that he has many state-of-the-art cooking apparatus he’s collected over the years, yet he has no idea how to make them work. Translation – the art of cooking is in the love.
His chef diploma was garnered from a local catering school and he immediately found a position in a classic French restaurant as a dishwasher. The wonderful “I’m 18 years old and am going to conquer the world” attitude we all cherish plummeted “Are you joking? This is boring.”
Not to be discouraged nor resigned to the back of kitchen, Chef Bruno, full of energy, charm, and ambition decided to explore the world, bartering his vocation to reside in locations that struck his fancy.
First stop – New York City, USA!! Counting himself lucky to work in a gas station, sandwich shop, or as waiter in small establishments – even finding himself pushing the famous rolling chairs in Atlantic City from casino-to-casino – he persevered. Continuing to achieve his ambitions and rising through the culinary ranks he moved to London to work at the epitome of elegant dining at Harrods’ Georgian Restaurant. As with any true explorer (still not satisfied), he returned to the States with an offer to work at Les Chefs de France, located at Disney World’s Epcot Center, under the tutelage of world-renowned French Chefs Paul Bocuse, Gaston Lenôtre, and Roger Verger.
After engaging the French food personality and atmosphere at Les Chefs de France, he moved on to the Cayman Islands and met his business partner Dennis Hunter, who happened to be a neighbor of Dr. Guy Harvey. Through a casual conservation with Dr. Guy Harvey in regards to Chef Bruno’s opinion of what it would take to create a restaurant, Guy Harvey’s Island Grill was born. Just like that. Can you believe it? A testament that a friendly conversation, a dream, and hard work can take you anywhere.
Personally, I hesitate to call this a “grill,” as in the American sense of the word. Just a glance at the menu speaks classic French dining at its best. You’ll find Seafood Cardinal, a shellfish-filled entrée served in puff pastry with a touch of Newberg sauce. Then there is the bouillabaisse (don’t you just love saying the word BUL-YA-BASE), much less savoring the ocean’s offering of snapper, mahi-mahi, diver scallops, Gulf shrimp, and mussels in a saffron broth, and at the same time giving you that feeling of being oh-so international. Even the unpretentious Dover Sole is blessed with your choice of meuniere butter or almandine butter. This is not a grill menu – this is a tried and true century tested experience in fine dining.
I always wonder who cooks for the chef and what they do in their minimal and valued spare time. Chef Bruno rarely has a chance to watch our (or is that my) fascination with cooking shows. Although, Anthony Bourdain will be pleased to know that the bar at Guy Harvey’s Island Grill prior to the dinner rush may tune into “No Reservation.” I believe travel and cooking touches our Chef Bruno’s soul.
He also shares with us that his Bulgarian girlfriend Silviya always cooks for him on his Sundays off and keeps his culinary senses exploring with her Eastern European-based cuisine. He ponders the here and now, as well as the future whilst enjoying time with his son Emanuel. Chef Bruno worries that precious food sources will be eliminated and is truly thankful for Dr. Harvey’s research and education regarding sustainable ocean resources.
And finally, what else does Guy Harvey’s Island Grill Chef Explorer do to capture the inherent excitement of always moving forward to feel freedom? He gallops to the shores of the Caymans on his horse, Goliath. Enough said – a life experienced in living.