Fabien Laville and Nicolas Tollé (better known as Fab and Nico) spent nearly a decade cooking in Parisian restaurants, often working 18-hours days.
“We felt like we needed to get some fresh air,” says Tollé. In 2011 the young French friends set foot on Australian soil for the first time.
The pair found themselves in the kitchen at Abbotsford's Three Bags Full. Although they enjoyed working in the cafe, they had their own ambitions. “We just wanted to do something more,” says Laville, “something just for us.”
Employing the experience they gained working with Michelin-star-awarded chef Guy Martin and Meilleur Ouvrier de France chefs Philippe Legendre and Eric Briffard, they began cooking private dinners.
“We decided to do a dinner for the boss of Three Bags Full at his place,” says Trollé. “He really enjoyed it and said, ‘we’ve got to do something with this’.”
And so Voilá dinners were born at Three Bags Full. Now almost a year on from the first dinner in September 2013, it is an established fortnightly feature.
Laville and Trollé’s background in fine dining shows in the refined preparation and presentation of the dishes, but Voilá is a low-key, come-as-you-are evening out.
The popular cafe’s bustling brunch queues are nowhere in sight as pre-booked guests settle in for the evening. Candlelight and murmuring conversation create a soft ambience. Laville and Trollé (who believe chefs shouldn’t be confined to the kitchen) join the wait-staff in presenting the food, creating a sense of shared experience among guests.
With these set-menu dinners (currently four-courses) changing monthly, the two aim to create a space where people come, open to trying something new, comfortable their dinner’s in capable hands.
Pleased with the reception they’ve had, with a hint of pride, Trollé says, “We’ve had people coming back for almost every dinner.”
“I don’t think we’d have ever got the chance to do something like this in Paris,” Trollé says. “Paris is so big with so many people and too much pressure. It’s hard to live there.”
“That’s what I love about Australia,” he continues. “If you want to create something, then you’ve got the chance of doing that.”
Voilà is held fortnightly at Three Bags Full. For upcoming dinners, a look at the menu and more, head to voilachef.com.