A magnificent terrace shaded by pine trees, overlooking Corton beach in Cassis (Bouches-du-Rhône). An idyllic setting to enjoy the charms of the Mediterranean, and its treats. With whom Dimitri Droisneau fell in love fifteen years ago, when he settled down as a cook near the Beaulieu reserve, a small palace on the Côte d’Azur.
It is also there that this native of Normandy fell in love with Marielle. “We both had a career in starred restaurants, the meeting happened naturally”, explains the couple. He is in the kitchen, she is in the dining room, and soon both will be at the head of Villa Madie, a house created in 2007 by Jean-Marc Banzo. It was in 2013 that they decided to take over this place, nestled below Cap Canaille and so representative of the Mediterranean. “We wanted to do business and we visited this beautiful house. We didn’t think too much about it, it was obvious to settle here and establish our life project here,” says Dimitri Droisneau.
“A little innkeeper”
They team up with Jean Bourdillon, a “hyper humble” Cassidian who made his fortune in rice, for whom it was important that the Villa Madie adventure continue. And Dimitri and Marielle obtain a second star the following year. “Our strength is to be a bit of an innkeeper. We are not a seasonal restaurant, we have a large clientele of regulars who come to see us several times a year. Our goal is really to build loyalty with significant proximity. When I come to see them at the table, I don’t have a hat or an apron. And it’s thanks to them, and their feedback, that we refine our dishes and our service,” says Dimitri Droisneau.
Customers, suppliers, teams, the key word for these restaurateurs is loyalty. “The two parts of the restaurant, the kitchen and the dining room, are one. The house is large, but with a family dimension and this warm side for our 44 employees. And it all happens naturally”, explains Marielle, who takes care of all the administrative part of the villa Madie.
“What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger”
With a strong anchoring in the territory, to the point of becoming “ambassadors of Cassis and Cassidians”. “Neighbors bring us eggs from their hens, sometimes olive oil. Everyone thinks of us, they even brought us morels from Cassis, it was the first time I had seen them”, confides the chef. He has also created his gardens, over 3,000 m2, near Aix-en-Provence, with vegetables, olive oil, and he has his own truffle field, to control everything.
Loyal customers, a close-knit team and this strong anchoring in the territory have enabled Dimitri and Marielle Droisneau to survive two years of storm caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. “We fought like crazy, we made takeaway meals to keep the link. We opened, then closed. It was very complicated, especially from a mental point of view. Many couples would have taken the lightning behind, but that was not the case. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. And together, we are even stronger, ”savors Marielle.
“The Michelin Guide had asked that Marielle be there at all costs”
This is what the Michelin Guide wanted to highlight, in addition to a singular identity, by granting this couple of restaurateurs entrepreneurs a third star in its 2022 edition. Marielle be there at all costs, because it’s a ship with two captains,” recalls Dimitri.
Two ship captains, and two family captains since their two sons live there. “They told us ‘three stars are for the best restaurants in the world’, and that’s when we realised,” confides Marielle. While Dimitri notices that they have left a rugby ball on the roof of the restaurant again. Enough to put on your dad’s apron for a few minutes, before putting on your three-star chef’s hat.