18/09/2007 - 22:00

Irresistibly French

18/09/2007 - 22:00


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It may have been a sombre week for the many fans of Eminem Turkish restaurant, but for young chef Pierre Ichallalene it is a time of immense excitement.

Irresistibly French

It may have been a sombre week for the many fans of Eminem Turkish restaurant, but for young chef Pierre Ichallalene it is a time of immense excitement.

After taking ownership of Ismail Tosun’s Eminem on Monday, Mr Ichallalene has been busy converting what has been arguably one of Perth’s most popular restaurants into Chez Pierre, which as the name suggests, is focused on French cuisine.

Mr Ichallalene’s father, former Jolly Frog owner Jean-Daniel Ichallalene, is helping redevelop the flavour of the business from Turkish to French, albeit with his son very much in the driver’s seat.

The pair bought the Nedlands restaurant after the hard-working Mr Tosun put his business up for sale so he could move home to Turkey and try to find a better balance between work and family.

For the younger Ichallalene, 25, the restaurant will fulfil a long-time ambition to operate his own business after growing up in the dining rooms of his father’s popular Jolly Frog and, before that, Pierre’s in West Perth.

Mr Ichallalene has returned from an 18-month stint in Canada and Europe to embark on the new venture and is understandably excited by the prospect of managing his own venue, which is due to open on October 4.

This week, the tradesmen have been brought in to convert the eclectic yet glamorous restaurant into a modern French dining room.

The concrete floors will be covered with carpet and the courtyard mural of Mr Tosun’s family will be replaced by a mural of the Cannes countryside in the south of France, plus a fresh coat of paint.

Mr Ichallalene is not giving away too many secrets about what he intends to put on the menu, other than to say escargot and duck a l’orange will make a showing.

Mr Ichallalene has honed his cooking skills during 12-hour days at acclaimed Parisienne cooking school, Cordon Bleu, followed by a stint at three-star Michelin restaurant Arpege and Le Bastide St Antoine in the south of France.

His dedication to learning the art of fine French cuisine came after leaving university just a year into a commerce degree.

“I studied commerce but it wasn’t that exciting,” Mr Ichallalene says.

“I went back to the restaurant [Jolly Frog] and took a full-time role. Dad was happy for me to do that but at the same time he never pushed me into it.”

Perhaps of interest for Perth’s wine buffs will be a special cellar list, which is made up of a collection of wines from Jean-Daniel Ichallalene’s private cellar.

“He [Jean-Daniel] has a very big cellar and some beautiful wines, which will be our cellar selection,” Mr Ichallalene says.

There will also be an extensive list showcasing wines from across Europe.

While Mr Ichallalene is conscious about expectations regarding his purchase of a well-regarded restaurant, he is a little bemused.

“Everyone says ‘wow, you have such big shoes to fill’, but we are not competing with him,” Mr Ichallalene says.

“We are not doing a Turkish restaurant, it will look and feel completely different.”

Mr Ichallalene says that, while he and his father had not been actively searching for a suitable site, when they learned the premises were for sale they decided it was a “great site” to establish a new business.

Mr Ichallalene has learned a lot from the French kitchens, some of which were serving up degustation menus for as much as 600 euros a head.

There was also a focus on fresh produce, with one restaurant, Arpege in Paris, owning a vegetable garden to provide supplies for the kitchen.

“There wasn’t a freezer in sight,” Mr Ichallalene says.


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