South Africa - Marc Guebert
Food and beverage destiny written in his DNA

Meet Marc Guebert, founding Bailli Délégué of South Africa, in conversation with current Bailli, William Perry who was intrigued to learn more about Johannesburg’s “soufflé king”.

The key influences:
- great-grandparents who owned and ran a central Paris hotel
- parents’ strong passion for good food
- eating in best French restaurants throughout his childhood
- a railway chef putting his hat on 6 year-old Marc’s head resulting in a career lightbulb moment
-  three years in Chartres learning his trade
- Monsieur Cazalis at the Restaurant Henry IV developed Marc’s skills in all aspects of proper dining and professional service 

Career highlights:
- Trusthouse Forte: six years in London, two years in Malta
- transferred in 1973 to Trusthouse Forte’s President Hotel in Johannesburg
- an important personal move as he met his wife Irene who was working there
- starting his own restaurant with Irene credited as key to his success
- early 1980s  becoming a Master Chef of France earnt worldwide acclaim
- accepted challenge to set up a Bailliage of South Africa
- inaugural dinner on October 25, 1981, at Marc’s restaurant, Le Français

Describing his cooking style, Marc says, “It is a grandmother type of cooking”.  Using France’s best dishes combined to warm the soul Marc describes his dishes as peasants’ food served in a sophisticated style acceptable in restaurants. Marc’s approach to cooking is the definition of both art and mastery of cuisine never preparing the same dish in the same way always using whatever ingredients are at hand.

Marc is well known in Johannesburg as the “soufflé king” having made an estimated 150,000 over 45 years. He started cooking soufflés to entice people into his restaurants knowing they would explore and discover other dishes.

A true perfectionist, he firmly believes in the highest level of professionalism and unsurpassed results are produced using the correct and best kitchen equipment. “A hamburger is fine, if it is made with care and served professionally”. 

Marc suggests a successful Bailli needs to be a “jack of all trades” who is dedicated, effective marketer, good gourmet, strong enough to handle criticism and complaints and resolve them.

Full of energy with great connections it is no surprise that the original Bailliage members were Marc’s customers, local food critics, and well-known local chefs. After two years, having built membership to about 100, it was time for this man, passionate about promoting the Chaîne throughout South Africa, to hand over the reins.

Why you might ask – for a simple reason: Marc’s business success. He realised that the demands of building the Chaîne’s presence and running four restaurants had stretched beyond his limits. Nevertheless from the strong foundations an enduring legacy was created.

In December, Marc will celebrate his 76th birthday. He continues to work going every day with Irene to their Johannesburg restaurant, Junipa’s. His customers say you can actually feel the passion in his food – an accolade which further illustrates Marc Guebert as the epitome of a restaurant professional.

William Perry
Bailli of Johannesburg

Ed. William is collecting stories and documenting the history and people who have served the Chaîne in South Africa.