Bruno Verjus has a genuine reverence for his ingredients. At his tiny Paris restaurant, Table, in the 12th Arrondissement, the 64-year-old chef makes memorable and beautiful dishes. His $430 tasting menu starts with “Couleur du Jour,” freshly cut vegetables, followed by dishes such as deep-sea prawns with dollops of a bright-yellow turmeric sauce and pigeon cooked over an open fire. The meal always ends with his legendary chocolate-caper tart, which is topped with caviar, and his olive-jam madeleines dipped in olive oil.

With just 24 seats, it’s one of the most challenging reservations to get in Paris. (Fans include Hedi Slimane, René Redzepi, and Carole Bouquet.) In 2022, Table earned two Michelin stars. Next week, it will be named to the annual World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

Yet, until 10 years ago, Verjus had never cooked in a professional kitchen. The chef grew up in Roanne, near Lyon. He attended medical school in Lyon, then lived in China for nearly two decades and started Premium Group, a medical-device-and-packaging company. In 2005, he sold his company and was hungry for a new adventure.

Bruno Verjus’s foie gras with bottarga, a dried fish roe.

From 2009 to 2013, Verjus began hosting On Ne Parle Pas la Bouche Pleine (Don’t Talk with Your Mouth Full), a Sunday-evening radio show about food, on France Culture, the French version of NPR. Around this time, he also became one of France’s first food bloggers. On his Web site, Food Intelligence, he reviewed restaurants and shared cooking techniques.

He says the idea to start Table came to him while reading Jean Giono’s 1953 short story, “The Man Who Planted Trees,” in which a man single-handedly reforests a valley in Provence. Verjus decided to open a restaurant that would positively impact the planet. In April 2013, at 54 years old, he opened Table.

I talked with Verjus, who wore his trademark Issey Miyake tartan pants and colorful sneakers, in the makeshift “forest” outside Table. During the coronavirus lockdown, he bought two colossal plants the size of cars and placed them in the parking spots in front of his restaurant.

A view of Table from the “forest” sidewalk.

Past the forest is his “very Japanese and soft” restaurant. The kitchen is unique for Paris: open and calm. His team has the poise of a Formula 1 pit-stop team. “I decided to make them work less and more precisely, only four days a week, Tuesday to Friday, lunch and dinner,” Verjus explains. “We have never been better.”

Diners sit at one long tin table designed by Verjus himself. On the walls are two striking sculptures—a seal and a seahorse—by French wunderkind sculptor Jean-Marie Appriou and a portrait by the designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac.

The meal always ends with Bruno Verjus’s legendary chocolate-caper tart, which is topped with caviar, and olive-jam madeleines dipped in olive oil.

The restaurant will adapt the pace of the meal and the amount of food served according to observations waiters make. “I was 50 years on the side of the eater,” says Verjus. “We want to tailor the experience for every guest’s taste and intentions. We are client-centric, the opposite of the Old World that looks at performance, show[ing] off, and ego. I see myself as a nourishing mother.”

In a poem Isabelle Adjani wrote and sent via a voice memo, the French actress, best known for her roles in Possession and Nosferatu the Vampyre, describes Verjus as “the most mysteriously creative man in the kitchen, or rather in the pharmacy.”

While Verjus started cooking at age 11 for his friends and family, he was never formally trained. It took a while for him to be accepted by the snobbish French culinary world, but now celebrated chefs are his fans. “Bruno is an excellent self-taught chef who knew how to create an original and recognized restaurant,” says Bernard Pacaud, the chef at L’Ambroisie, the longest-running three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris.

The dish that completes every meal at Table: a chocolate-caper tart topped with caviar.

“He’s an encyclopedia,” Dominique Crenn, the head chef at Atelier Crenn, a San Francisco restaurant with three Michelin stars, told Le Point. “His cooking has no deceit.”

Verjus’s longtime friend and mentor is Alain Passard, the head chef at Arpège. They met 20 years ago, when Verjus was a regular at the restaurant. “I [went] there once a week for 10 years,” Verjus explains. Both have a jazz-like way of cooking, improvising recipes when the freshest produce arrives. “We write the story of the menu every morning,” says Verjus. “We do not order anything from our producers. I ask them to send me the best of the best of what they have, with no minimum quantity of vegetables, fish, or seafood…. That’s the way to respect them and nature by removing constraints.”

“We are client-centric, the opposite of the Old World that looks at performance, show[ing] off, and ego.”

The philosophy behind Verjus’s cuisine is influenced by his medical background and time living in China. He uses only French culinary staples, such as milk and cream, sparingly, doesn’t heat butter above 98.6 degrees, and cooks with ancient wheat flour. In his kitchen, he’s banned the French tradition of mise en place, cutting and prepping ingredients in the morning. His sous-chefs cut vegetables only right before serving them. “It’s going back to the roots of cooking—at the beginning, there were no fridges. So things were alive until you ate them,” Verjus explains. “We lost the habit of getting nourished by life and ingesting positive energies.”

Verjus’s interpretation of the Japanese dish donburi, made with lentils.

Verjus plans to retire in two years, so hurry to try his signature dish, lobster mi-cru mi-cuit (half cooked, half raw), made with crustaceans freshly caught off of Île d’Yeu. Verjus created the dish because he always hated the texture of cooked lobster but loved the taste. He grills the lobster shells and quickly dips the meat in warm butter, just before serving, so the lobster is the temperature of your mouth. While it tastes cooked, it’s technically raw. It’s magic, simple, and delicious. Allegedly, it’s the dish that earned him his first Michelin star. Even Bernard Arnault told the chef it was the best lobster he’d ever tasted.

“It’s a wonderful journey to celebrate the vitality, diversity, and polysemy of beautiful cuisine,” says Verjus. “I want my guests to feel good, sharing pleasure and love.”

Emilien Crespo is a writer and producer based in Paris and Los Angeles. He is the author of Soul of Los Angeles: A Guide to 30 Exceptional Experiences and has collaborated with publications such as The Gourmand, Purple, and Interview