This year our 2015 Reader Restaurant Awards have four personality-based categories: Best Chef, Best Manager, Restaurant Personality of the Year, and Food Entrepreneur of the Year. During the voting period that runs through March 8, we’re profiling a few of this year’s crop of nominees.

This time around we present Ignace Lecleir, proprietor at Temple Restaurant Beijing (TRB), who has been nominated for Best Manager and Restaurant Personality of the Year.

TBJ: Give us a little background about yourself.
I am originally from Belgium, but prior to my move to Beijing in 2008 to open the restaurant Maison Boulud for chef Daniel Boulud, I have devoted most of my career to working in fine dining and hospitality establishments in Paris, London, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angles. I opened TRB in early 2012 and have been enjoying every moment ever since.

TBJ: What's your "secret sauce" that informs your management style?
I would say “passion” remains as the constant key factor in terms of the way I work, whether I am with customers or with our staff. It is very important to have passion in the restaurant business, as the hours are long and situations can get quite intense. Therefore, you must have passion to keep doing what you do. When you are working with passion, people around you can naturally feel it, and for our team, I believe, at least I hope, it sets the tone for their working attitude as well.

TBJ: Tell us about a customer crisis and how you resolved it.
Not long ago, we had a minor crisis when a third party valet parking company lost the key for a customer’s expensive vehicle while parking it. This occurred on a busy Saturday brunch service. The key was nowhere to be found when the guest asked for it. This certainly caused much unpleasantness for the guest. So what we did was use our own private car to shuttle the guest back to his residence. The next day, we were informed by another guest, who also used our valet service, that the missing key was actually found in her vehicle, which meant that the valet parking staff must have dropped it by accident. We returned the lost key to its original owner while driving him back to his car, and sent a bottle of champagne to make up for the inconvenience that we had caused him. I believe these extra gestures pleased the customer in the end.

TBJ: How are Beijing restaurant patrons different from diners in other cities?
I would say Beijing’s restaurant guests, particularly our local Chinese guests, are actually much more open minded and informal when it comes to dining out, even when it is at a more formal restaurant. They tend to be very receptive in terms of trying new dishes and flavors, even if they are not very familiar with them. They are less focused on the “proper” way of dining, such as the sequences of how the courses are served. Rather, they are genuinely more concerned about enjoying a decent meal and having a good time.

TBJ: Have you always been this charming?
You are probably the only person that ever described me as charming! I certainly do not see myself this way. But if someone ever found me to be charming, perhaps it could be attributed to the passion I have for the restaurant business, as described earlier, which makes me genuinely excited and grateful for my work day after day.

TBJ: What does Beijing need to become a more personable city?
The traffic is definitely something that has room for improvement, as well as the air quality. But I think everyone is well aware of these two issues, and I actually firmly believe the government shall have the solutions to tackle and to resolve these two longstanding handicaps of the city. Aside from these two minor imperfections, I actually find Beijing to be a very charming and friendly city that has a lot to offer, for both tourists and residents.

TBJ: If you could host anyone, alive or dead, at your restaurant, who would it be and why?
It would actually be fun to have the entire TRB team dine at our restaurant as my guests, because I think it could be a very rewarding experience for them to stand in the shoes of the guests, so they could see a lot of things from a different angles. Now the problem is: who would serve them?

TBJ: Tell us about one of your favorite places to eat in Beijing, aside from your own.
I don't dine out so much, because I do spend quite a large amount of time in the restaurant. But when I do eat out, it is always in my interest to try out new restaurants in town and discover new places. Recently, I think Bistrot B in the Rosewood Hotel is doing a fantastic job of offering traditional French bistro food with a modern twist. I enjoy dining there from time to time.

Click here to read previous editions of A Few Words With wherein we profile some of the top players in Beijing's food scene in the run-up to our 2015 Reader Restaurant Awards.

Image: TRB


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