The Twin Cities are blessed when it comes to talent in the kitchen. The culinary minds at the helm of our favorite restaurants receive critical acclaim and top honors from food enthusiasts and reviewers, alike. But who are the people behind the chef’s coat? Our Chef’s Profile aims to find out.
A French chef living in Minnesota who’s known for a burger? It’s certainly not the way Vincent Francoual would’ve predicted it but as he plans a celebration for his restaurant’s 12th year in business, he certainly can’t complain.
As we learned in Part 1 of our chat with Vincent Francoual, he didn’t realize his passion for cooking until he was taken under the wing of one of the most respected chefs in the world, Eric Ripert.
After that, he looked at being a chef in a different light.
At Vincent A Restaurant, he brought elegance and classic French cooking to a city that needed it — and a dozen years later, it’s proof that his vision is still warmly embraced.
That kind of gratitude and acknowledgement is exactly what keeps the chef invigorated to go into work the next day. His philosophy is to not just serve a delicious meal but a helping of happiness to each customer that so graciously chooses his establishment.
Plus, he fully admits — he doesn’t even enjoy a weekend off.
“I think Saturday night off is way overrated,” he said. “I don’t know what to do with myself and with this crowd. I like having this passion.”
For the second part of our chat, we wanted to learn more about the chef’s life outside of his Vincent kitchen, from his inspiring Iron Man track record to his soon-to-be newest addition.
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure food?
Well, I love food. And I love to eat wherever I go. People think we eat very well every day but one thing that I used to like and I still like is sour cream and onion Pringles. Some nights I like to go home and eat some chips. Food wise, I also really love chocolate. But that’s my main foods. I can eat foie gras and everything else. And cheese. I think cheese is my weakness.
I hear you’re quite the marathon runner and that you’ve even done a few Iron Man’s?
Yes, well I’m going to be a dad in nine weeks, which is exciting, so I used to do that. The last three years I did three Iron Man’s, which is 2-and-a-half miles of swimming, 112-mile biking and a marathon. I love to do that. Interestingly enough, as much as I can be outside, I love it. I love to be alone in the wilderness. I love to be on my bike and just go. It’s my spiritual side, I guess. But now I think it’s going to be over for a while. Maybe in two, three years I can start to do another one when the baby is bigger.
Do you cook at home?
Yeah, I like to cook at home. When we have guests, we like to cook. … I love grilling. Grilling is cool. I like the one-pot cooking because I don’t like to do dishes. It’s much easier.
Is there an ingredient you prefer not to work with?
Something I don’t like to work with? You know, the Asian dish, a lot of times, I don’t know enough. It’s not part of my culture. I try to work with it but it is true that I struggle most with that. I like food that is seasoned with salt and pepper. I know people think it’s boring but I like the flavor of the item that you cook. I like to add spice to elevate the flavor, not to cover it, so I’m not big into spices all over the place. I try to keep it simple.
Is there an ingredient that you’re most drawn to?
Fish. I like fish. I’m good with fish. I like fish a lot, it’s very versatile compared to meat. You can do a lot of things.
What would you choose for a last meal?
It’s so weird because I don’t think of my last meal would be when I know I’m going to die. You know, in one week. It would probably be a lot of foie gras. Foie gras with a good glass of wine and cheese.
What has been your most memorable meal to serve?
The customers, I like, we meet people, we see the kids and we see these people later. You know, maybe a couple that always comes here but then one passes away and the other still comes here. I think it’s more the impact. I see food as plate to be enjoyed by everybody. I don’t see food as being a technical event, you have to be elegant. For me, food is coming together to enjoy with other people. … I like to see people come back to visit, have special moments, engagements. It’s great to see people when they’re 10 and now they’re 20, I like that. Yeah, to be part of the community. I just try to create happiness one plate at a time. When you create a memory to people when they come to Vincent, that’s lasting.
I know you’re celebrating 12 years at Vincent but are there any plans for another restaurant?
When the time is right, we’ll do it. And what I mean by time is for me to mature, to be able to be mature in business and mature in this. We are being contacted. We are talking about it, the timing’s just not right. And now with a baby on the way, it’s going to take a while. So we’ll see. We’re working on a catering company. So that’s the exciting part. But whatever I do, it won’t be another Vincent. It would be a bistro, back to my first love of food.
What do you hope to be known for in the Twin Cities culinary scene?
Besides the Vincent burger? (Laughs) I don’t really mind about it. I just hope that Vincent, the restaurant more than me, is a place where people say, ‘Hey, we had some great times over there.’ I would be very happy with that. Not trying to recreate the wheel. Nothing pleases me more than when kids come back from college or something and come by, ‘Hey, we used to do this …’ I’m content knowing that tomorrow is a new show, a new stage and that’s why I think I enjoy this. I’m on the stage every day like theater.
For more information about Vincent Francoual or Vincent A Restaurant, check out their website. Check back next week for Part 2 of our chef chat.