Home » Palo Alto chef turning his Baumé restaurant into ‘more relaxed’ Bistronomie — and shaving big bucks off the prix fixe price

Palo Alto chef turning his Baumé restaurant into ‘more relaxed’ Bistronomie — and shaving big bucks off the prix fixe price

After a dozen years in business, Bruno Chemel is giving his high-end Palo Alto restaurant…

After a dozen years in business, Bruno Chemel is giving his high-end Palo Alto restaurant a makeover — from the name, to the menu, to the pricing, to the dining room decor.

Over the weekend he closed Baumé, which had received Michelin honors for nearly a decade. On March 8, he and wife Christie Ledesma Chemel will reopen the California Avenue space as Bistronomie.

The emphasis will remain on creative gastronomic cooking techniques using local, seasonal ingredients, but in a more affordable style — $168 for six courses, compared with previous prix fixe menus of $300 to $400.

“In the spirit of bistronomy, I see an opportunity to serve high-level meals at lower prices in a more relaxed environment,” Chemel said in an announcement of the news. “This concept arose in France in the 1990s and has never been more right for the times. This is an ideal way for me to break with the past.”

Baumé earned a Michelin star its first year in existence, then was elevated to two stars. For the next several years, Baumé became what was believed to be the world’s only two-person staff to hold two Michelin stars.

In September 2021, the restaurant lost both stars. As with all changes in star levels, Michelin inspectors — who review anonymously — made no comment regarding Baumé’s deletion from the guide. The restaurant had pivoted to creating high-end takeout dinners during the pandemic months when indoor dining was not permitted, then resumed serving its multi-course tasting menus indoors in March to a very small number of diners.

Chemel quickly issued a tart response to Michelin: “The erratic, corporate focus and fixations of the Guide have been a distraction for years, creating no value for restaurateurs or diners,” he said in a statement. “I finally feel free to enjoy cooking just for the happiness of my guests. Instead of following the status quo, I can follow my own vision and listen to the customer’s feedback, not the Michelin guidelines.”

His inaugural Bistronomie by Baumé menu will be a “modern French” sustainable pescatarian prix fixe one, with six courses for $168. By comparison, a previous pescatarian menu has been priced at $298 and other prix fixe meals at $398. For this new menu, a Kagoshima Wagyu supplement will also be offered. Optional wine pairings will be selected from the mainly French list, with some California offerings.

According to the website, diners should expect “a simpler restaurant set-up that may feature fewer wait staff, no pastry chefs and no tablecloths.” The dining room makeover will include a brighter color scheme and new artwork.