Andy Ashby of C’est Bon shares his less-is-more approach to cooking and where he eats when he’s not in the kitchen

Andy Ashby of C’est Bon shares his less-is-more approach to cooking and where he eats when he’s not in the kitchen

Brisbane isn’t short on French-inspired restaurants, but if you’re looking for a restaurant that gets you as close to the promenades of Paris without jumping on an airplane, then C’est Bon must be at the top of your list. The restaurant, which boasts a bar, creperie, open-air terrasse and rooftop space, has been a go-to for Francophile foodies for years, but with chef Andy Ashby at the helm since 2020, the institution has been taken to greater culinary heights. We chatted with Andy for Beyond the Menu, talking about his early career inspirations, his less-is-more approach to cooking, highlights from C’est Bon’s current menu and where Andy likes to eat when he’s not in the kitchen.

To start, we’d love to know where your love affair with food first began. Can you recall any formative experiences that ignited your passion for cooking – particularly French fare?
As a young lad I always had this desire to cook and explore new recipes, techniques and experiences – making people smile and enjoy something that I had created. I would grow to embrace it and work as many as three jobs at once to take it all in and continue to learn. My grandmother helped set that spark alight and gave me the inspiration to pursue the dream of becoming a chef.

Did you have any culinary mentors who were crucial in shaping the way you look at food?
I think throughout the journey so far every restaurant and position I have been in has had an impact on the person I am today. From the hustle and bustle in Melbourne with Scott Pickett at The Point, grinding it out day by day, to working at Qualia Hamilton Island with Alastair ‘Ally’ Waddell (now head chef at Frida’s Field) in a completely different environment; their determination for greatness was admirable.

What was the biggest lesson you learned early in your career that has stuck with you until now?
Stay true to who you are, and be focused and determined to push for bigger things. When the chips are down, get back up – listen and continue learning from those around you, be it family, friends or work colleagues.

What would you say is your personal philosophy when it comes to cooking?
I believe that when it comes to cooking, less is more. Don’t over-complicate the recipe or ingredients. Work to the strength of the produce don’t be afraid to change or adapt. These are techniques and tools that I have picked up throughout my career.

Tell us about the current menu you’ve got running at C’est Bon! Was there an initial idea, guiding theme, or creative urge that informed how the offering took shape?
Currently our menu at C’est Bon has been going through seasonal changes and menu development. We’ve been having fun working with the producers and team to create new dishes. We have a guideline that I put in place from day one when I took over C’est Bon – two weeks before Covid, may I add! Ahh, good times. The offering at C’est Bon has many different layers, from breakfast crepes at Le Bon Creperie made from imported buckwheat flour from Brittany, to wine and snacks at our newly renovated Terrasse, Le Bon Bar or Ooh La La Rooftop, a la carte dining in the restaurant, taking up our chef’s tasting menu for that special occasion, or enjoying private-dining experiences in our award-winning cellar. The type of experience you can have at C’est Bon is vast and varied.

What ingredients or produce are you thrilled to be incorporating in the menu right now?
We are so thrilled to be using Alex’s red claws from Beaudesert – the first point of call was to take some of the team to the farm and meet the man behind the product directly. It’s incredible quality, local and fresh to your door. Autumn is my favourite season as there’s so many delicious ingredients to work with like quince, pine mushrooms and truffles.

If we were to put our next C’est Bon dining experience in your hands, what particular  dishes would you elect to send our way?
Our 1920’s lobster flambé cart would be one of the first dishes coming out. This is a new concept for us where we come out and finish the red claws table-side in French armagnac, caviar and herbs from the garden. We love this interaction with the customer – passing on the passion from the farm to plate is just an incredible way to tell the story. Also the fire coming from the pan is always impressive and exciting! Next would be the sweetcorn brûlée – it’s a signature on our menu and is always a great talking point as it’s a savoury dish with scampi and Queensland pumpkin cooked as per the same technique used as a sweet brûlée. Like the French, we do love a good duck course! Dry-aged for seven days before coming to the restaurant fresh from farm to table, quite literally – it’s the freshest duck you can get. Every duck ordered is glazed in a honey-and-lavender reduction and comes out to the customer’s table-side before returning to the kitchen to be carved and finished with quince cooked in cider and cassoulet. A glass of Banyuls with a slice of gateau opera and cassis sorbet would be a stunning way to end the meal.

What do you think is the secret to running a successful restaurant kitchen?
Work closely with your team, as it’s your second family. Also have patience to educate and grow with the team, pass on the passion that you have absorbed and show them the true ways of the industry – from learning about the produce first-hand to running a kitchen, so they might be able to run their own restaurant one day. Listen to your locals and learn what the industry is doing in the current market. Create a business plan that allows room to breathe, but has goals and objectives. Don’t be afraid to change, as change is healthy – just don’t drift off the path of the guideline that was set!

What other local eateries do you recommend for:
a) A cheap and cheerful feed? Biang Biang Fresh Noodle
b) A celebratory feast? GOMA Restaurant or Blume
c) Innovative eats? Bar Francine – love this place!

When cooking at home, what are some recipes that you tend to gravitate towards when cooking for just yourself, or impressing a loved one or a group of friends?
Weet-Bix! Hahaha – this is just an easy option for an after-work snack. But, when cooking for friends and family I tend to lean towards Italian, as I lived in Siena for a while, or Japanese, as I love the umami flavours.

What would you say are three essential pantry items one should always have on hand at home?
Good quality butter, olive oil and French wine. Et voila!

Andy Ashby image shot by Joseph Byford

The Stumble Guide is our comprehensive Brisbane dining guide with more than 2400 places to eat, drink, shop and play.


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