• 2 390 words • 9min read •
Raised in a restaurant and in a hairdresser, Maria, owner of La Bête Noire, built up her way by following her instinct and her desires. But more than anything, by sharing her Mediterranean hospitality around her.
She opened La Bête Noire one year ago. At 58, rue Henri Barbusse, in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, you will find your happiness at any time of the day. In the morning, to enjoy a top quality coffee or a comforting hot chocolate. For lunch, to taste a delightful vegetable (12€) or meat (15€) plate. For dinner, to try an assortment of homemade mezzes with a delicious glass of Italian wine. And finally, for your Sunday brunch, to discover an unusual menu.
Through her cuisine and her atmosphere, Maria conveys in La Bête Noire hospitality and caring values. These values, she grew up with them in Malta, and she still strongly believes in it today.
Before La Bête Noire started
Before Maria came to France, she had several jobs in Malta. Though, every job she did ended up with cooking. She was always transforming her work in a cooking job, even when she was a teacher or when she was working in a hospital.
Maria always knew in a corner of her head that she wanted to work in a kitchen in Paris. After taking some cooking and pastries courses to get the cooking certifications, she flew five years ago, with her husband and her daughter to Paris, and started her new life.
At first, she began as a Pastry Chef at Coutume for 2 years. Then, she ran for another two years her own Traiteur, called “Soul and Spice”, which reflected already her “cooking personality”. This activity gave her the opportunity to build her network and to save some money.
But most importantly, her Traiteur experience brought her to the place she settled the restaurant today. She was actually the supplier of Cafè Juno when it was located 58 rue Henri Barbusse. When the Café decided to move on, she was the first one to be aware of it, and she took immediately the opportunity.
Six months later, the 28th of October 2017, Maria opened La Bête Noire, her first restaurant.
Inspired by Seasons and Diversity
Don’t worry, “La Bête Noire” (understand “The Black Beast” in English) does not mean that Maria will eat you! Even though eating is her favorite pastime. Actually, Maria is a very patient and caring person and she loves people a lot.
The name needs to be understood in the way she describes it below:
“I am Maltese, but I don’t like Malta so much, I have never felt Maltese in a way. And I am not French neither, I am living here just for 5 years now. So, I don’t belong to Malta, nor to France, it’s like I am always in-between, and my kitchen is also like this a lot. Our plates are very nomadic, inspired from different culture and colors.
And the other reason of this name is that we are cooking a lot of meat in the Restaurant!”
To Maria, nomadic means, first, to adapt her cuisine to the seasons and the weather. The smells, the colors and the atmosphere inspire her a lot. When she is changing the menu every week, she is always having a look at the weather for the week before writing it.
Then, a nomadic cuisine means to be inspired by the people around her, and especially the people she is working with. The Mediterranean inspiration comes obviously from her Maltese origins, but in addition to this, she has some inputs from her Lebanese sous-chef Sarah, her French cooker Emma and her waitress Juliette. On top of this, Wee, a Chinese baker is coming every Friday to do the bread, and her wine suppliers are from Italy.
The cuisine of Maria is simply what she loves to eat and what she likes to cook at home. With all these sources of inspiration around her, she does not lack creativity when it comes to writing the menus very often. Often means that she changes the lunch three times a week! The menu for the brunch changes every week, and the menu for dinners changes every two weeks, but the main plate changes every week with the desert. You follow?
Because of this, La Bête Noire‘s clientele is strongly loyal, especially the lunch clients. Indeed, people love the fact that they can discover several dishes in the same week. Plus, the quality of the food is great, and the prices are totally fair.
What’s on the menu?
Talking about the food products, Maria has some favorite she likes to cook. For example, she loves to cook octopus, it reminds her home since it is a typical Maltese product. She also likes to cook meat, the roast lamb is a big favorite and is often on the menu.
Although Maria is a big meat lover, she enjoys a lot to cook vegetables. If eating meat does not sound good to you, in La Bête Noire, the vegetarian plates are simply amazing, because she is cooking every vegetable in a very specific way. She knows how to highlight each of their flavors!
Another thing is characterizing her cuisine: experiencing it. Maria is not following the recipes, but her instinct. And when she sees potential in some products, even the one you would never imagine there is, she just experience it. Therefore, sometimes, she is managing to create dishes out of the blue:
“I try not to waste anything. I am really proud when I manage to cook with ingredients that should have been thrown away.
Last time we made pork for lunch, and Sarah made an apple salad to go with it. After two days, we had many left holders. It was obvious that we needed to throw the apples away, they did not look good anymore.
I told Sarah not to throw them away. We put some honey, some cinnamon, and we let it macerates in the fridge. Then, we made a cake out of it. It was fantastic, the cakes had so many tastes, it was just a real success, by accident.
In my opinion, the cuisine is about living the ingredients, experiencing them. Sometimes, you get disasters, and sometimes it’s just fantastic! Just try it!”
The Best you can Offer
To stay inspired by the products she is working with, Maria is only getting closer to the suppliers who share the same values as her. Since her goal is to offer to her clientele high-quality ingredients at a fair price, she is working very closely to these small artisans. Ethic and fair are the master words in the selection of her partners, a human-size relationship helps to keep the prices down for the clientele. Her philosophy? Good quality food should not cost a lot.
I experienced it when I ate dinner at La Bête Noire. On top of a fabulous octopus and haddock risotto, I wanted to try her famous Mezzes. I tasted an assortment of 6 homemade mezzes. Each mezze has 7 elements in it, you can easily imagine how much work it represents. And for both the plate and the mezzes, I had to pay in total only 30€. The products are great, the recipes are delicious, and you can definitely feel that there is a lot of work behind it.
“To select your suppliers, and so the quality of your ingredients, you need to settle your price range by asking yourself: how much do I want to sell a plate? How much are people ready to spend for a plate of good food? What will be the philosophy I want to convey through my food?
For me, the guideline to choose my supplier is “going to the best I can offer“. Not necessarily the best one, but the best I can have.”
Therefore, for the meat, she is working with La Ferme de Clavisy, they come every week with a fresh delivery of beach, pork, and veal. But also, they have a delicious selection of offals, which are very rare to find here in Paris. Maria loves offals, if you come for dinner at her place, you will probably have the opportunity to try them.
For the fish, she likes to work with Tom Saveur, who is offering lots of Bio fish and seafood. She is also working with a botanist friend who is providing all the jams. I tried them, these jams are just delicious, they don’t have tones of sugar and are 100% natural.
Hospitality is the master word
Maria is very honest and transparent with her clientele: the cuisine comes directly from her heart, her ingredients are 100% natural and the best she can offer, all her plates are completely homemade, and her suppliers are trusted people.
What else makes La Bête Noire so unique? In this restaurant, hospitality is king. As a matter of fact, Maria grew up in a Restaurant and in a Hairdresser shop, which both have a lot to do with hospitality. Therefore, Maria believes that coming to a restaurant needs to be a whole experience that arouses all the senses.
“A restaurant is about hospitality first. The food has to be good obviously, but hospitality is the most important thing. You need to warmly welcome the people who come because this kindness is the first thing that hit the visitors.
I realized throughout the year, that as long as you are nice with people, as long as the food is worth the money they pay, they will come back. For a restaurant, hospitality means getting to know the clients, take care of them. This is how they remember you and your restaurant: when there is an experience behind it.”
Making people happy, by kindness, generosity, and hospitality,… It sounds easy on the paper, but this is not fun every day. Nowadays, with Instagram and all these review websites, people have a lot of expectations. Before they step inside the restaurant or the shop, they have already built in their mind a complete idea of what they will find inside. Sometimes, people are surprisingly happy, and something people don’t appreciate to face something different.
Maria is honest about it: owning your own place is a lot of worries, about money, about making ends meet… But so far, the most challenging aspect is how to leave up with people expectations. As a restaurant owner, it is very important to realize that you cannot fulfill everyone’s expectation. Maria realized it, and since then, she is just spreading her smile and her hospitality without fearing any malicious comments. Love and joy are upon any hate.
Nothing can stop our passionate business owner. Are there any projects for the Restaurant? Maria does not want to put it to a bigger scale for sure, it would not be the same. However, Maria has the desire to organized cooking workshops in her restaurant. With her meat supplier, she wants to teach how to prepare and cook a pig, and then eat the prepared meat altogether!
Maria did have a plan for the future. She changed what she does every 5 to 7 years because changing is important to her, it keeps her motivated. Therefore, she has in mind a project of a small hotel, outside of Paris, in the countryside near the sea. This project will still be very connected to the food, in the same spirit of La Bête Noire, with the warm Mediterranean hospitality.
It will also be a slower way of life because the restaurant right now is so intense… But these are just ideas for the moment, and Maria has presently a lot to manage for her restaurant. I will keep an eye on it! 😉
It’s your turn!
To finish this article in style, you will find below some motivating and inspiring quotes from Maria. Meeting her was necessary at this time, she just reboosted the projects I had in mind… I hope this article will do the same for you!
“Hard work is key, don’t get discouraged. Be tough with yourself, not by putting yourself down, but by expecting more of yourself. Keep on going, perseverance and resilience are the master words.
If you feel down at one point, just do something you like. Give yourself a break, but finish what you started. Even if the end result is not what you expected, even if it not so beautiful as you thought it would be, finish it and move on to the next thing.
Today is the time of multi-tasking, and multitasking does not work. Start something, finish it, and then move on.”
For my readers who would like to open their own restaurant, here is another advice from Maria:
“You should absolutely be a waiter for at least 6 months. This is how you understand how unrealistic and demanding people can be. It can be a big choc if you open your own place without being a waiter before.
You also need to have a cuisine experience. Don’t just go to school, work on the field: both in small and big restaurants. The best way to learn is to work on the field.
Sarah, my sous-chef, decided to stop her architecture school last year to work in a restaurant. She has been here for like 9 months. During these 9 months, I saw so much transformation happening to her. She started as a waitress and she learnt so much. Now, she is cooking with me. She tried a lot of things, some of them went wrong and some of them were a success. In both cases, she never gives up.
On another side, I had Barbara, she was my former cooker. She comes from a cooking school, so, she had a strong cooking background and she knews the cooking techniques you must know in a restaurant. On top of this, she acquired cooking the perseverance and resilience skills you receive by working in a kitchen.
These are two different approaches that you can achieve if you work hard. Everything is possible if you work hard for it.”
Information La Bête Noire
La Bête Noire
58, rue Henri Barbusse
Instagram – +33 6 15 22 73 61
Tu.: 8:00 – 17:00
We.-Fr.: 8:00 – 23:00
Sa.-Su.: 9:30 – 17:30