Nota Bene: The Place for Everybody

February 8th, 2010

A chat with co-owner Yannick Bigourdan

Yannick Bigourdan is co-owner of the award-winning restaurant, Nota Bene in Toronto, Canada.

Bigourdan was born in the South of France to a family heavily entrenched in the food industry. After attending the Swiss Hotel School of Lausanne, Bigourdan worked for the Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts in Los Angeles and Toronto. In 2001, Bigourdan partnered with Chef David Lee to acquire the acclaimed restaurant Splendido in Toronto. With a few years of much-lauded success behind them, Bigourdan and Lee partnered with celebrated Toronto restaurateur, Franco Prevedello, to develop Nota Bene — a restaurant that would retain all the high-quality food and service of Splendido but in a more relaxed atmosphere.

Since opening in July 2008, Nota Bene has not seen a night with an empty table. We spoke with Mr. Bigourdan to hear his thoughts on the popularity of his restaurant.


On How it All Started…

Nota Bene partners from left: Prevedello, Lee, Bigourdan

[David and I] were very itchy to do something else. Splendido is a small place and we were very involved with it. As we started seeing the growth potential, we felt that itch. One day Franco called me and said, “I’m up the street and I want you to see this fantastic location.” He had always asked whether we would like to be partners, as he wanted to go back into the business. So we went to look at the space and decided to do something.

Nota bene is the synergy between three ideas and concepts…It is the result of three people gathering around a table, having a glass of wine, and just talking about what’s important in a restaurant. What makes people come back?

On What Makes People Come Back…

The facade of Nota Bene on Queen St. W in Toronto

The location is fantastic — where everyone has something to do here — the art community, the business community, developers. It’s been very interesting to see that Nota Bene has become the place for everybody. People can spend an hour here or three hours.

(Nota Bene is located on the trendy Queen Street West in downtown Toronto —near the financial and theatre districts, and steps from the Four Seasons Centre, the beautiful and recently built home of the Canadian Opera Company.)

I think Nota Bene has set a new standard for big restaurants. What we did here is create a large-scale restaurant, we have about 7000 sq ft, but with a very inviting menu and a price point that is very sensitive…It’s a very easy going restaurant. The concept is simple — appetizer, main course, dessert. Nothing to explain.

We took a trip to NYC with the idea that we were going to pick up some inspiration but we never came back with something that we thought, “Oh my goodness we have to reproduce that.” The only thing we came back with was that it’s better to have a full restaurant than an empty one. Everything was based on that very simple thing. What are we going to do to make sure that our restaurant is full? What are we going to create that is inviting for people to be there? And price point was a big thing for us. We might do things that are at a price point that is inferior to our competitors but we want people to get excited that there is a real value in being here.

(Chef Lee has developed a farm fresh menu comprised of local ingredients and Canadian flavours. The dishes, like the pulled Suckling Pig + Boudin Noir Tart or the Stilton Beef Brisket Burger, are executed with quality and precision but remain casual and accessible with an average cost of $24-$25 per main course.)

On Working with Distinguished Firm KPMB to Create the Space…

The elegant interior designed by Tom Payne, KPMB

We were honoured because Tom Payne from KPMB gave us a call and said he was the architect who worked on the building above and he wanted to have a chance to present [his vision] for the space. It was such a humbling experience that he wanted to work with us… they are so talented and they have a great work ethic.

We wanted absolutely gorgeous surroundings that were timeless with the feeling of being in a major city. We wanted the feeling that there is importance and relevance — that was a word we used a lot, relevance. We wanted to open a relevant restaurant. We weren’t going to do something if it wasn’t relevant, if it wasn’t going to make a difference.


DesignEats would like to thank Yannick Bigourdan
for sharing his thoughts and time with us today!

Next: Click here to read our interview with
Nota Bene’s Executive Chef David Lee.


For more information and photos of Nota Bene,
please click here

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One Response to “Nota Bene: The Place for Everybody”

  1. [...] his mark on the Toronto dining scene after acquiring the popular Splendido restaurant with partner Yannick Bigourdan. In 2008, Lee opened Nota Bene with Bigourdan and a third partner, Franco [...]

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