Interview with Chef Léa Linster – Gold medal winner of the Bocuse d’Or
Acclaimed chef Léa Linster won a Michelin star in 1987 and owns three restaurants in Luxembourg: Restaurant Léa Linster, Au Quai de la Gare and Kaschthaus. She became a gold medal winner of the 1989 Bocuse d’Or, which made her the first and to date only woman to ever accomplish this. Our co-founder, Mecca Ibrahim, was lucky enough to speak to Mrs Linster about her inspirations and how she put Luxembourgian cuisine on a global map with her achievements.
What are the biggest highlights of your career?
I took over my father’s restaurant in Frisange in southern Luxembourg when I was about 25/ 26 in 1982. I had said when I was young I would bring a Michelin star to the village and within five years, we had a Michelin star in 1987.
Winning Bocuse d’Or was a true highlight of my career, as it meant global recognition. But the inspiration for the Bocuse d’Or was easy for me as I made everything that I loved. My standards of quality are very high. As a child we traveled a lot for food, and always for the best ingredients.
Now I have passed on that love of food and passion for quality ingredients to my son Louis who has taken over the family restaurant and runs it with dynamism, talent and great pride.
Who are some of the chefs that have inspired you the most?
Joel Robuchon, who I used to work with and there is no one quite like him. I also admire the French chefs and restaurateur brothers Pierre and Jean Troisgro, Swiss chef Frédy Girardet and of course Paul Bocuse.
Tell us about your new book My Life, My Recipes / Mein Leben, Meine Rezepte?
It has old favourite recipes, and ones that are important to me and many that have never been published before. It is a collection recipes that have brought me to where I am today.
This results in a very personal cookbook, so to speak, and is my life in recipes. I’d like to dedicate it to Paul Bocuse, but also to all my critics, role models and, of course, guests who have accompanied me on my journey so far.
What are some of your favourite dishes?
I love potatoes. Good potatoes with good butter and some sea salt can be one of the best dishes for me. In Luxembourg we have some of the best butter in the world. Also “Saddle of Lamb Bocuse d’Or” is my signature dish. I have a saying: “First I made my lamb and then my lamb made me.”
What advice do you have for today’s chefs?
Follow your heart and follow your palate. You should always love what you do and follow your feelings and your instincts. Your favourite dish is probably one that you will make the most famous.
Do you have any particular advice for fellow female chefs?
Women need to have a warrior mentality and have confidence. Also be yourself and don’t let either success or failure torment you.
You can follow Lea Linster’s restaurants on Instagram at @restaurantlealinster and on Facebook at @RestaurantLeaLinster
Catch up with our interview & podcast with Ruth Hansom on what it was like competing in this year’s UK National selection for Bocuse d’Or. You may also like to read our other features with female chefs and owners of restaurants – Pomona’s, Shola, The Parkers Arms and Romulo Cafe. We also interviewed Katie Chesney Head of Marketing at the STK Steakhouse group of restaurants EMEA. Plus you can listen to our podcast with Katie Chesney and our podcast with chef Luciana Berry very kindly put together by our friend James Haywood of OpenKitchen.