50 Years of Fine French Dining

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:11

Manhattan institution Le Perigord celebrates a half-century in business

East Side In a city where restaurants can open and close within a matter of months, longevity is impressive, and 50 years of longevity is a reason to celebrate.

Le Perigord, a traditional French restaurant on the East Side, is toasting its golden anniversary this year. It opened in 1964, among what was once a sea of Grand Dame white linen dining spots, staffed with French-accented maître d's and tuxedoed waiters. Many of its brethren have closed, but Le Perigord has managed to hold onto its luster under the continuous command of owner Georges Briguet.

Briguet was originally born in Switzerland, where he worked at the Baur-au-Lac in Zurich. In 1961 he was recruited to work at the Waldorf's Marco Polo, one of the city's premier private clubs at the time.

After working at the Waldorf for a few years, Briguet took the skills he had acquired and opened a new restaurant, Le Perigord. He attributes his half century of operation to an adherence to high standards.

"I appreciate the fine dining experience, the elegance," Briguet said. "I believe in the quality of the French cuisine."

Briguet is a gregarious man, who credits his education as the key to his success; he studied and worked with some of the finest chefs and restaurants in the world. Additionally, while working as a chef he received a degree in business from the American Business School, in midtown Manhattan This education pushed him to think about his business as both a chef and business man.

"Nothing is wasted here. We are opened 7 days a week because the food doesn't sleep," Briguet said. "Nothing is pre-cooked, we make food fresh one day at a time."

At this 50th anniversary, Briguet is looking to his son Christopher to continue the tradition of French fine dining. Christopher, a humble, more reserved man than his father, started at the restaurant working in the coatroom and handling phones. He worked his way up, from cleaning the dishes to now handling the finances and running the restaurant. He has a great knowledge of the business, and growing up there gives him a respect and care for it.

"Our goal in moving forward is to continue the tradition, with some small modern changes," said Christopher. "We will continue the history of the finest quality of food and service. I want to continue what my father has done, especially when other restaurants are not continuing this tradition."

The restaurant has an extensive menu, both pre-fixe and a la carte, with sizable portions. In addition to modern adaptations of traditional French cuisine, they carry classic dishes like Duck L'orange, Sweet Bread, Kidneys, and Lobster Thermidor. Celebrities, U.N officials, and loyal customers frequently visit the restaurant due to the available room for private parties in the back.

Among the planned changes are the addition of music and candles within the restaurant while keeping with the traditional aesthetic. The family sees the neighborhood as a reflection of the restaurant's integrity.

"I love this restaurant, and in a city if you are nice with people, they will come back," Briguet said.

Now the Briguet family hopes to embark on another 50 years of service.

"The future is bright, a 50th anniversary is huge," said Christopher. "This is my whole life in a way, I don't really consider it a job."