Once the enfant terrible of the Principality’s restaurant scene, the Stars’N’Bars has never stopped swimming against the tide since it opened on Port Hercule in July 1993. From heading the live music scene of the 90s to pioneering sustainable menus, Partners Didier Rubiolo and Kate Powers carry with them three decades of history.
We meet on the terrace of the Stars’N’Bars, in front of us a post-card view of Monaco. It is not long before Didier Rubiolo, chef and co-owner of the Stars’N’Bars, begins to unfold a garland of anecdotes. “When Prince came to play, whole trucks came and dumped material as if he was going to play a concert in front of 20,000 people.” He also mentions Billy Paul. “He would finish in Nice and midnight and come to Monaco afterwards. You’d find him playing at 3 am and he didn’t stop until the morning. He made me do more than one late night.”
We were a bit afraid of being snubbed because we were so different. It was always a question of knowing whether the European client was ready.
At the time, our Monaco clients didn’t even know what fajitas were.
Kate Powers and Didier Rubilo started their first establishment, Le Texan, in the late 80s. At the time, they were the second restaurant in Europe to serve a Tex-Mex menu. “It was a bit of a crazy idea. We couldn’t even find the right products in Europe. There was a company in Bordeaux, I think, that imported tortillas and other base products, but it was very complicated,” remembers Didier. “At the time, our Monaco clients didn’t even know what fajitas were.”
A Star(s’N’Bars) is born
“At the time, no one had ever done that.” The sentence is the refrain of Didier Rubiolo’s stories. No one had ever done a Tex-Mex restaurant in Monaco, a country overrun by French and Italian joints; no one had ever done a sports-bars on the Mediterranean; no one had put thirty TVs in one of the Principality’s restaurants. “We were a bit afraid of being snubbed, because we were so different,” admits Provence-born Didier, when he recalls the opening of his and Kate’s most famous brainchild, the Stars’N’Bars.
The idea for the Stars’N’Bars was of American-born Kate Powers. “I would have never done it without her,” admits Didier, who says that they never underestimated the risk of importing the sports-bar model to Europe. “It was always a question of knowing whether the European client was ready,” he recalls. “You’d never seen children running in a restaurant in France.”
I’m losing money, but I can no longer justify collaborating with such a corporation. Even today, I don’t think the world realises where it’s headed.
A sustainable awakening
“I like the creativity of my job,” Didier later tells us. “I like that the restaurant business is constantly changing.” In its 28 years, the Stars’N’Bars has known many revolutions. The days of live music are now long gone and the menu too, is a far cry from what it was in 1993.
The restaurant first clocked on sustainability in the early two thousands. At the time, the couple was living on a sailing boat. “We began to lend our boat to NGOS that were following cetaceans in the Mediterranean. They would teach us about the impact of human activity on animals, from noise pollution to oil pollution. It was extraordinary,” remembers Didier.
We just can’t justify having a big menu and supporting big corporations.
Fighting a wasteful industry
The harbour-view terrace of the Stars’N’Bars is now surrounded by a 120 square meter vegetable patch and the restaurant was the first establishment in Monaco to say no to plastic straws, bottled water, and non-biodegradable containers. 100% of their electricity comes from renewable energy sources and the restaurant has also collaborated with Monaco’s government on workshops to raise awareness about sustainability in Monaco’s schools.
I’ll ask for 20 cheese and will only get 10, or if it’s not strawberry season, then there won’t be any. But that’s how it is.
“All of a sudden, we realised that we had to be environmentally responsible. We couldn’t afford to waste water, chemicals, packaging…” The restaurant now only does Tex-Mex once a week, using products that are made in Europe. Their menu is as sustainable and as locally sourced as possible. “We just can’t justify having a big menu and supporting big corporations.”
The shift meant untying past bonds. Didier cancelled a partnership with Nespresso because of environmental concerns. The restaurant now uses beans from a Monegasque coffee roaster. “I’m losing money,” he admits, “but I can no longer justify collaborating with such a corporation. Even today, I don’t think the world realises where it’s headed.”
Didier Rubiolo admits that embracing sustainability in the restaurant business is not a walk in the park. “I’ll ask for 20 cheese and will only get 10, or if it’s not strawberry season, then there won’t be any. But that’s how it is. We’ve lost some clients; we’ve gained some clients. Sometimes we’ll be out of stock, but that doesn’t matter. We adapt.”
The Stars’N’Bars has now been in Monaco for 28 years – quite a milestone in a country that wheezes through time at the speed of one of its famous two-seaters. Didier Rubiolo has no doubt: The key to the restaurant’s success is his 3 decade-long partnership with Kate Powers. “We did eventually separate, but we never split up. We stayed together for thirty years, 24/7. She’s my soulmate. When you share a vision with someone, it can be extraordinary.”