Swapping competition for community and collaboration, Le Saint-Hubert in the Luberon Valley, France, is part of a group of local restaurants that recognise that fine dining can be more sustainable and more sociable. Opened by Lise Kvan and Éric Monteleon in 2019, the restaurant takes cues from the 18th century building’s history as a former dance hall, cinema, post office and hotel to now offer a more social take on fine dining. As part of this, Kvan and Monteleon have also launched Bon Fond, a project in which ‘time-honoured French techniques combine to create a deeply rooted gastronomic culture, bound together by incredibly generous, hard-working, passionate individuals’. Next, Le Saint-Hubert plans to re-open its rooms so diners can crash upstairs after a genial evening of gastronomy.
Further seeking to transform fine dining from stuffy to sociable is Hi Felicia, a Californian restaurant that is using interiors inspired by people’s homes to create a restaurant that feels ‘more like a friend’s house’ – think couches, coffee tables and houseplants. Run by chef Imana, who uses only her first name, the restaurant serves a 12–14-course tasting menu of fine dining with a ‘comfort food’ edge, with Mexican and global flavours sprinkled throughout. It’s the interiors and ethos, however, that make Hi Felicia a space for friendliness – even fun – where dining is concerned. ‘My team, they’re all artists and queer and non-binary people, and they love food and they love wine, and they love going deeper with me,’ explains Imana, who tells Eater of her plans to earn a Michelin star with the restaurant, which is providing a space of representation for people who are often overlooked by the industry.
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