I recently traveled to Houston and was happy to stay at my sister’s home. Upon my arrival, I was greeted by the news that a Chef, Francis Fauquenot, was hired to prepare the dinner she was hosting in my honor that evening.
My sister’s home is completely dedicated to food because hosting is her great passion, so the table looked exquisite with a Provencal table cloth and matching stoneware. Spring was exalted by the flowers from her garden that were beautifully arranged in diverse vases.
Chef Fauquenot arrived accompanied by his Sous Chef, Shannon Palmer, his former student at the Le Notre Culinary Institute of Houston and began setting up shop in the open and spacious kitchen. He charmed us with his French accent; he is from the Lorraine region, as we sipped our delicious Vin Rouge. We were to have couscous this evening and my mouth was watering with anticipation and nostalgia.
When you have couscous in France it is not simple semolina with spices or the familiar Tabouli. Couscous is a true feast native of Northern Africa more specifically Morocco and Algeria. The dish is prepared with diverse meats like braised lamb shank, grilled Merguez (spicy lamb sausage); grilled lamb chops and roasted chicken. This is accompanied by vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, carrots and chick peas) that are slowly sweated out with Herbs de Provence and other spices to develop a delicious broth with a soup like consistency. The aroma in that kitchen was heavenly as we continued watching the Maitre Chef at work in perfect harmony with all these ingredients. Francis later showed us his method of preparation for the grainy Couscous which he massaged thoroughly with butter, olive oil, salt and pepper. Using his fingers to envelope each grain with all of this is the secret to a perfect texture he explained and he then proceeded to add the raisins.
Then came time to sit down and feast on the most succulent “home cooked” dinner we had been waiting for. We were served all the diverse meats, the veggies and broth and semolina in deep bowls. This made it easy to spoon up the broth that had been seasoned to each one’s own taste with Harrissa, spicy tomatoey hot sauce. MMMMMM was the word of the evening.
After the ecstasy of this dish that truly was faithful to its origin, Francis served my brother-in-law Mark’s favorite dessert, Crème Brule! His own twist on this ole time favorite was to add delicious fresh blueberries.
For a few moments I was transported back to the days when I was living in Paris with my sister and we would hit Chez Omar, in the Bastille area where the art scene and its protagonists delighted or at Beber’s in St. Germain for Paris’ most authentic couscous. I still can feel the pearls of sweat dripping from my forehead as I sipped the hot Harrissa-filled broth from my dinner plate, quel Bonheur!
Francis Fauquenot is a world recognized Chef whose background includes the Silver medal at the George Brown Convention Center 2006, later he would be hired as Personal Chef for Brown’s eldest daughter, Nancy Brown Negley. He was also certified that year CEC by the American Culinary Federation. His experience in France includes some of the finest restaurants such as La Maison d’Alsace on the Champs Elysees; that later led to invitations to New York to head the kitchen of Bistro Les Amis in Soho and the famous La Goulue on Madison Avenue where he worked alongside Philippe Schmith of Houston’s Bistro Moderne at the Derek. Fauquenot taught at Le Notre Culinary Institute of Houston. Today, Fauquenot is hired to prepare the cooking staff of discerning foodies such as George and Barbara Bush and travels to all corners of the U.S., especially his new home Texas to prepare private dinners or special events for parties of all sizes.
I realize how international the cuisine culture is developing in our own Rio Grande Valley and even know several foodies who have already invited local chefs to cook for them. I truly recommend to all my fellow foodies to experience this luxury in their own home. Chef Fauquenot is ready to offer his services to the Valley and is even learning Spanish to better serve his patrons.
Bon appetite or buen provecho as we say down South,
Francis Fauquenot (CEC)
tel: 713 517 9800