Chef Christian Rullan

All for love

\\ Text Maria Amélia Pires
\\ Photography © PMC

Son of a Spanish father and a French mother, Christian Rullan was born in Nancy, France, which he left at the age of just two, to go and live in the Balearic Islands, Spain. Before he began his journey through the world of flavours, he was a forester, having studied, to this end, in northern Spain, in the Aragonese Pyrenees. As a chef, and following training in famed gastronomy schools, he worked in renowned restaurants and hotels and it was in one of them that he met Bárbara, the Portuguese women who changed his path.

Today, in Portugal, a country that had never interested him before, but which he now admires, he works alongside Bárbara, in Le Babachris, in Guimarães, a project of both of them, which has already earned a great reputation. Its cuisine is the result of technique, experience, hard work, freedom and love. A love that gets him excited when faced with products, just imagining the flavours he can create with them. A love that makes him very demanding of himself. A love for Bárbara, his partner in life and in dreams.

«Portugal is spectacular and the people are very nice and helpful, even though sometimes they have no idea how good they have it»

He decided to be a cook, and 14 years have since passed. He studied at one of the best gastronomy schools in the world, Lenôtre, in Paris, and to this training, he also added another two years, in Palma de Mallorca. He did work experience in some of the best restaurants in the French capital, such as Le Pré Catelan, of Chef Frédéric Anton. Christian admits that it was an enriching experience, but the huge pressure led to a competitiveness that wasn’t always serious. From Paris, he headed to Palma, where he worked in prestigious nouvelle cuisine restaurants. He was the chef of a five-star hotel; he was personal chef to a millionaire in Madrid and, between these and other places, he ended up working in a hotel in the French Alps, a place that would change his life.

It was there that he met Bárbara, a Portuguese woman who was far from her homeland, looking for other opportunities. The distance from their family, loneliness and also the cold – jokes Christian – soon brought them together, in a love that lasts to this day. Christian also returned to Madrid and Bárbara headed to the south of France, before returning definitively to Portugal. Because their long-distance was becoming unbearable, Bárbara suggested to Christian that they open a restaurant in Portugal. «For me Portugal was taboo, it would be a step backward, by some years,» says Christian, concluding, «I had to bite my tongue. Portugal is spectacular and the people are very nice and helpful, even though sometimes they have no idea how good they have it.» On August 21, 2014 they opened Le Babachris, a name that reveals the unity and harmony between the two of them, in love and in life’s projects.

«To get to the final dish, you need to think, experiment, combine flavours; you have a taste memory and you need to work it»

In the historic centre of Guimarães, set in a cosy venue, with fine, Mediterranean style cooking, highlighted by fresh produce, Le Babachris is now a gastronomic benchmark. This is Christian’s gastronomy, whose philosophy is to produce quality cuisine with basic products. Christian tells us that «20% is technique and 80% results from what moves the world, love, inspiration, freedom of thought,» and adds, «To get to the final dish, you need to think, experiment, combine flavours; you have a taste memory and you need to work it. My struggle is to pass this idea onto guests.» But there is always room for improvement, and as such he likes to know the reaction of his customers. Attentive to our pupils, as they dilate, Christian is able to see that the flavours he has presented - veal loin, with Douro wine sauce, chanterelle mushrooms, carrot puree, green asparagus, potato and pear; John Dory, with raisin and garlic rice, aubergine puree and mini onions; the Sea and Mountain starters and Dish of Foie Gras; the desserts Doux Chocolat and Pineapple Carpaccio –, as well as the wines, were faultless.

Emotional and very demanding with himself, Christian reveals that he has a woman, who he loves very much, but that he has other ‘woman’, which is his kitchen. He adds, however, and because Barbara is not 100% in the restaurant, seeing as their love has borne fruit – the little Cloé –, that without her there full-time, it’s not the same thing, because Bárbara is half of the character of Le Babachris.

In love, in life, in dreams, together, trying to show Guimarães and the country that knowing how to eat is an act of culture.