Tributes paid to Michel Navet, the ‘best chef Chichester has known’

Michel Navet ran the Comme Ca in Chichester with his wife Jane for 27 years
Michel Navet ran the Comme Ca in Chichester with his wife Jane for 27 years

Tributes have been paid to a much-loved Chichester restauranteur.

Michel Navet, who died on November 4, owned and ran Chichester’s renowned French restaurant Comme Ca with wife Jane for 27 years, closing only after being diagnosed with cancer.

Working in restaurants after leaving school in France at 15, Michel’s natural culinary flair saw him absorbing the expertise of top chefs.

He met Jane while working for Club Med, and they moved to London, where Michel cooked for stars of stage and screen and began managing restaurants.

“He picked things up very quickly. When I met him he didn’t speak a word of English, but once he started to learn something he never gave up,” said Jane.

Opening Comme Ca in St Pancras, they later moved their highly successful restaurant to larger premises in Broyle Road.

“He had to be the best in all that he did,” said Jane.

“The produce had to be right and he could be very forceful if it wasn’t – boxes of vegetables were occasionally thrown out of the window.

“But he had great respect for suppliers. Fishermen would phone from their boats to say what the catch was and he would tailor the menu accordingly.

“He loved to see people enjoying themselves.

“It didn’t matter where you came from; he treated everyone the same.

“He had very strong principals and people respected him for that. He could be very direct, but he was also very funny and charming. Even at the end the nurses were bending over backwards for him.”

Supporting youngsters in catering, Michel regularly took on trainees and lectured at colleges and schools. “His biggest thrill was seeing some of our chefs going to work for Michelin starred chefs. He had a real generosity of spirit,” said Jane.

Sam Bakose, owner of The Crab & Lobster in Sidlesham and the Halfway Bridge in Lodsworth said: “Michel was the daddy; the one to chase.

“Before he opened Comme Ca there was nothing like it in Chichester. He had a great sense of fun and was always extremely generous with his time and advice. He was the best chef that Chichester has ever known.”

Owner of the Sussex Pub Company Nick Sutherland called him ‘one of Chichester’s greatest characters’.

His son Francois said: “Being in the hospitality trade myself I couldn’t have had a better role model.”

His daughter Armelle added: “He was selfless. He even organised a party to say farewell to his friends.”

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