Exclusive interview with Didier Rubiolo, the founder of Monaco’s first multi-featured center for environmental innovation, focusing on the well-being of the community and our planet.
Read the interview in the Winter 2023 edition of the Living in Monaco magazine.
Thirty years ago, in 1993, an iconic restaurant was born in the heart of the Principality of Monaco. The French-American power couple, Didier Rubiolo and his lifelong partner Kate Powers, envisioned and launched the famous American sports bar/restaurant, Stars ‘n’ Bars. Together, they transformed the Principality’s culinary landscape for nearly three decades.
However, in August 2021, Kate, the American-naturalized Monégasque and receiver of the Order of Saint Charles, Monaco’s highest honor given to outstanding citizens, passed away.
She left a lasting impact on generations with her passion for others and her commitment to the environment. In 2004, Kate and Didier co-founded Monacology, an event aimed at educating children about the environment.
“Climate march, Clean up operations or even Monaco Ocean Week, Kate was always present, offering her time and determination for the causes in which she sincerely believed,” – as it was recalled by the Prince Albert II Foundation in a tribute.
After the loss of Kate, Didier announced that he would close the doors of Stars ‘n’ Bars, as it could not be the same without her.
However, Didier returned with a brand new concept that truly embraced his and the late Kate Powers’ passion to preserve the planet, called Conscientiae.
Conscientiae is Monaco’s first multi-featured center for environmental innovation, redefining the essence of hospitality, wellness, and sustainability.
What is the meaning behind the name ‘Conscientiae’?
“The name originates from the Latin words “con” (with) and “scientia” (knowledge) – a state of profound understanding of self and what is right and wrong, to engage with the world through joint knowledge,” – says Didier.
The new concept also repurposes the 1800-square meter restaurant venue on the port and expands its offerings to include spaces that can host activities promoting sustainability and wellness.
It has been designed to immerse guests in nature’s bounty, crafting a tranquil sanctuary where the generous use of greenery and soil diffuses nature’s healing power.
What do you think sets Conscientiae restaurant apart from other fine dining establishments in Monaco?
“It is more than just a restaurant. The aim is for Conscientiae to be a thought-provoking platform where entrepreneurs, investors and tastemakers are brought together to defy the status quo by leading positive changes.”
The project gained the backing of Prince Albert II of Monaco, a childhood friend of Kate Powers, and the restaurant features a wonderful section dedicated to the loving memory of Kate.
In this new restaurant, Didier, a classically-trained chef, returned to the kitchen to explore new options for a sustainable menu. He is joined there by Monegasque Chef Eloïse Dorato, a dedicated and creative young woman who is former member of the Marcel Ravin team at Monte Carlo Bay.
Together they have created a seasonal ‘Menu for the Planet,’ based on world cuisines, which changes frequently with a focus on fresh, seasonal, and ethically-sourced ingredients from small, local producers.
The intention is to encourage customers to rethink their eating habits for their well-being and that of the planet.
In your opinion, why is sustainable food consumption important?
“What and how we eat today is the direct cause of more than a third of the carbon emissions that lead to climate change. This is the ultimate threat when it comes to the safety and availability of the food we bring to our tables every day.
We want to provide viable alternatives and help our clients change their eating and food preparation habits before it is too late,” – explains Didier.
What is your favorite item on the new menu?
“Any risotto choice, which changes daily, sometimes a beet version, sometimes topped by seasonal mushrooms, sometimes seafood choices. There is no limit, changing with the seasons and the local market,” – smiles Didier. – “I also love anything from our SuperFoods Lunch Menu.”
Conscientiae has teamed up with Gabrielle Achilleos from Zest for Life to create a ´first of its kind in Monaco´ lunch menu with nutritionally dense foods, low in calories, but rich in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins.
People want to know what’s in their food, where it came from but, also what are the health benefits.
“Gabrielle is an Integrative Nutrition Health coach, specialised in gut health, nutrition and holistic stress management. With her help, Conscientiae’s digital menu features each day’s Superfoods dishes with a description of their nutritional benefits.
Each superfood has different nutritional properties, but overall, they’re associated with heart health, a strong immune system, cancer prevention, reduced inflammation and lower cholesterol.
Typical dishes in the SuperFoods menu include roasted spicy cauliflower with tahini drizzle, Chicken Tagine with lemon and mint, Lebanese taboulé and Lebanese-style pickles, hearty soups, beetroot and butter bean burgers with seasonal roasted vegetable stack, and many more.”
What would be the food choice of Kate?
“The CONSCIENTIAE SALAD, a crispy salad greens, twice-cooked chicken, farm-fresh eggs, parmesan shavings and socca chips from Nice. Served with an omega-rich anchovy dressing. A luscious balance of savory and fresh flavors.”
Conscientiae is a wonderful new continuation of the journey of Didier, a new chapter that he is rightfully excited about and something that holds tremendous positive value.
For many years, Stars ‘n’ Bars was the most important sports bar in Monaco. How does it feel to enter every morning to a new ambiance?
“Exciting! Stars ’n’ Bars was a pioneer in family-friendly dining when it opened 30 years ago and in the last two decades it again became a leader in creating the first eco-positive restaurant. Conscientiae is just the next step.”
Upon entering the establishment, one of the biggest difference people can instantly notice is the calmness. In his vision, Didier replaced the televisions showing sport events and the loud music, with something that creates a zen-garden vibe.
The Conscientiae team in Monaco has launched Calme, our Well Being Zone with dedicated private spaces available to privatize by personal coaches and wellness professionals, for events particularly in the fields of Body Mechanics, Mental Health & Nutrition.
The interior of Conscientiae features natural materials and plants, mirrors and soft lighting. Yet, the highlight is a spectacular six-meter olive tree that hold court in the middle of the marble-finished bar.
Do you remember when your awareness and consciousness toward our environment started to rise?
“More than 20 years ago, Kate and I purchased a sailing boat and we started spending time on it. This marked the beginning of a transformational period for me, which led us to re-evaluate everything around us.
We also used our sailing boat for joint missions with the Scientific Center of Monaco. Seeing all the beauty of our environment, sleeping on the deck while dolphins jump around the boat, is spectacular. However, this experience also led us to discover something terrifying, something that we never noticed from the shore: the level of pollution in our Ocean. Plastic, tires, pollution, so much ecological damage caused by us humans.”
Spending an evening with Didier reveals a compelling story behind everything they do, from their suppliers – a small producer who raises his animals outdoors and loves them – to serving neutral water in beautiful crystal-filled glass carafes. It is visible that his focus is on the importance of educating on sustainability.
It is truly impressive how Didier and the Conscientiae team cultivate personal relationships with local farmers and artisans. In this rare synergy with a “farm to fork” approach, Conscientiae ensures a minimal/low carbon footprint and absolutely fresh ingredients.
“Our cheese plate, for example, is made with delicious goat cheese from the Curti Family farm in Castellar above Menton. Our sourdough bread is produced by the Pani family who have operated the Epi D’or Boulangerie on Rue Grimaldi since 1957.
Fresh seasonal vegetables play a major role in our diverse menu, and we love the organic choices grown by small producer Thierry Botta from his “Lou Jardin” nearly 700 meters above Monaco in Peille. Melampo, just over the Italian border, certified organic since 1997 also provides wonderful vegetable choices.”
As the Conscientiae restaurant places a strong emphasis on sustainability and ethical sourcing, this winter, they are partnering with Caviar House Group in creating a new limited-time-only destination for festive winter gastronomy without the guilt.
Every year at this time there is a large consumer demand for luxury holiday delicacies that are not always ethically sourced. In the case of caviar, for example, demand for this delicious end-of-the year treat has almost led to the extinction worldwide of the species of sturgeon which provide the much-sought-after roe.
Fortunately, an extensive search for an eco-conscious company that shares Conscientiae’s passion for our planet has been rewarded, Didier reports, and he is delighted to offer an exceptional collection of festive sustainable delicacies that represent unsurpassed craftsmanship, an exquisite taste experience and certified environmental integrity.
We sincerely congratulate Didier Rubiolo for this amazing transformation of the iconic Stars ‘n’ Bars into the next level of consciousness, the Conscientiae restaurant, focusing on environmental innovation, the well-being of the community, and our planet.