Yves Benoît, the director of Florida, joined the legendary brewery as a diver in 1989. He never left the brand. (© News Toulouse / Anthony Assémat)

When William Sheller proclaimed that he wanted to be “a happy man”, Yves Benoît did not bother with convolutions. “I like this job. I am a happy man! “. This job is that of service, catering, how to pamper the customer, to give him the “smile”. And Yves, always hyperactive between two tables and two good words inside or on the terrace of son cher Florida, has never gone unnoticed in Toulouse!

“I entered Florida by chance”

When it comes to reserving a table for a café, the Florida, located just opposite the Capitol, acts like a Pavlovian reflex among Toulouse residents. This mythical brand, Yves Benoît has directed it since 2002. But his career in the Toulouse brewery dates even longer. In September 2021, this will be 32 years of history for the restaurateur ! “I entered Florida in 1989 completely by chance. One day, I came for a drink and I was at the counter when, in front of my eyes, the boss at the time had fired one of the divers! I did not let myself be taken down and told him that I wanted to work. He said to me: “When? Now ? “. I replied: “Yes”. And it started like that ”, he testifies to Toulouse news.

Georges Benages, son « mentor »

A daydream for the kid of Landorthe (Haute-Garonne), at the foot of the Pyrenees, which could not see itself doing anything else. From diver to director, 13 years later (around forty employees in the summer, 25 the rest of the year), Yves Benoît is a great advertisement for the social elevator, he who has climbed all the ranks in the shadow of the advice of his ” mentor ”, Georges Benages. “The customers, it’s you who make them. You need empathy, always having the right word that makes customers happy, he told me, ”recalls the manager of the Capitoline brewery.

The manager of Florida has accumulated countless memories in more than 30 years of service at Place du Capitole.
The manager of Florida has accumulated countless memories in more than 30 years of service at Place du Capitole. (© News Toulouse / Anthony Assémat)

“We are also actors”

Unmissable figure, recognizable among a thousand with his jacket topped with a small blue pocket, a little old school, folded up on the front, Yves Benoît is nevertheless against a background a little “big mouth”, made in the South-West. He prefers the “natural” of the countryside, the warmth of a man “without exuberance”. And admits a penchant for cinema, which according to him, similarities with his profession. “We are also actors, in a good sense. There is an artistic and theatrical side that I like a lot ”.

Morning light on the Capitol

Balzac’s “Human Comedy”, he has seen it parade for all these years, from dawn to dusk at the first light of day. and the first rays of the sun which are reflected on the Capitol. “I will never be jaded by the sight of the Capitol, of the brasserie that opens before the hour for the first coffee of the day for traders and workers. Every morning the light is different. Every day, it’s like it’s the first time, ”he marvels.

One-on-one with Patrick Bruel

In almost 32 years of “house”, Yves Benoît has accumulated many memories within what he calls “an institution”. With some people first of all.

“In 2002, I see a man arriving a little distraught when we had just closed, and who asks me if he can still have dinner. It was Patrick Bruel, who was returning to his hotel after a concert at the Zénith. found cooking for him at short notice and eating with him “.

Yves benoitFlorida Director

He also tells us about his improbable meeting with the American director Abel Ferrara, in 2016, when the screenwriter was the guest of the Cinémathèque. “As soon as he arrived with his team, he melted towards me and improvised a big photoshoot. But I won’t star in one of those movies, it never called me back! “.

Many actors … and rotten eggs

Catherine Deneuve, Bernard Tapie, Nathalie Baye, Philippe Noiret, Jean Carmet, Claude Brasseur, Donald Sutherland, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Sami Frey… He has seen a lot of “beautiful linen” pass in his dear Florida. He also saw pass, in accelerated mode, the rotten eggs swinging on the windows of the café by opponents of Philippe Douste-Blazy, elected in 2001 at the municipal elections and who was with his relatives for election night.

“The panic and the nothingness” of September 21, 2001

And then he keeps, engraved in his memory, this “dead silence” of September 11, 2001, when customers attend, petrified on the screens of the cafe, to the World Trade Center attacks in New York, and “panic and nothingness” of September 21, 2001 after the explosion of the AZF factory.

A survivor of Auschwitz hits the tiles.

His heart sank hard 20 years ago, when an old man banged on the tiles… “I tell him to come in and ask myself if he can go upstairs, where there is the roof. currently. I’m intrigued, but I go with him and he suddenly starts crying. He had recognized the place where he was arrested to be deported to Auschwitz. He had come out miraculously and it was the first time he had returned to France since the Second World War, ”he says, still moved.

“Daf” always attack

After a Covid crisis where he took the opportunity to “Take a healthy break”, go green and recharge the batteries, “Daf”, as the late Yves Raffy nicknamed him – a figure in Toulouse rugby and the restaurant world, who died in 2012 – has returned to the helm. At 61, he does not intend to take a step back anytime soon, let alone his retirement. In his self-taught temperament, he found new passions: pottery and watercolor, with promising first sketches.

“The oldest” in the square

With his jacket pocket and his inseparable glasses, Yves Benoît, whom his colleagues now see as “the oldest” in the square, will continue to survey the terrace and the interior of the Florida up and down, laughing, s ‘move and discuss the fat tip. Quite simply as a “happy man”.

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