Most passersby don’t even notice the Bentley or Rolls Royce often parked in front of the entrance to the Le Negresco Hotel in Nice. The legendary five-star property on the French Riviera has been entertaining business leaders, royalty, and celebrities since it opened in 1913.
They’re far likelier to turn their heads when they spot the high-performance Triumph motorbike parked in front. Those working at the hotel know the presence of the motorbike signals that Chef Virginie Basselot is in the house.
Part of a new generation of young and talented French chefs, Chef Virginie oversees the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, The Chantecler; its popular contemporary brasserie, La Rotonde; room service, bars, and banquets.
Most notably, perhaps, Chef Virginie holds the distinction of being only one of the two women recognized as a Meilleurs Ouvrier de France (MOF) since the award’s inception in 1923.
This highly coveted, juried award recognizes the Best Craftsman of France in various specialty areas. In the field of gastronomy, she wears the same famous blue-white-red collar that has been worn by French culinary luminaries such as Paul Bocuse, Joel Robuchon, and Michel Roth.
Forbes.com spoke with Chef Virginie Basselot at the hotel’s 17th-century Versailles Bar that overlooks the Promenade des Anglais to discover how she came to helm one of the most esteemed dining rooms in France.
Forbes: When did you first know you wanted to pursue a culinary career?
Virginie Basselot: I originally wanted to be a fighter pilot but was told that it was impossible for a woman at that time so I decided to focus on food and hospitality.
My father was a cook in Pont-l’Eveque, a small town in the Normandy region where I was raised. He wasn’t eager for his only child to follow the same route but recognized my grit and determination. Now he takes great pride in my accomplishments.
Can you briefly describe your career path to Le Negresco?
Basselot: After I began as an apprentice at 15 years old, I was fortunate to land a set of incredible experiences—each one a stepping stone to prepare me for my arrival as the first female head chef at Le Negresco in 2018.
My parents always encouraged me to travel. When I was 19 years old, I headed for Paris. There, I worked at Le Crillon, Le Grand Vefour, Hotel Le Bristol Paris and Relais and Chateaux Saint James Paris.
Chefs Eric Frechon and Franck Leroy were probably the most influential mentors in shaping my career. I worked as a sous-chef alongside them for nine years at Le Bristol.
When I worked at La Reserve Geneve in Switzerland, I was honored to be named Chef of the Year by Gault Millau, the Swiss restaurant guide, in 2018.
How does it feel to steward a culinary program at a
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