Vincent Francoual

For the Food Issue, we were lucky enough to have Vincent Francoual, owner of Vincent, A Restaurant, answer a few “foodie” questions. Following the Q&A he shares two amazing recipes from the restaurant.

Is there an important meal to you that you carry from your childhood? And do you put it on your menu, or save it for home?

For me an important meal is more of an emotional moment shared with friends and family than the flavor of a dish. In my childhood, Sunday meals were a good memory. It was the big deal meal of the week. There are some childhood dishes that I share at the restaurant; Ezilda Soup (a country style soup from my Grandmother) and Madeleines, (cookies that many French kids had as a little meal right after school) to name a couple.

For a man who loves seafood as you do, isn’t it hard to live in the Midwest? Are there any lake fish you’ve come to love?

Living here I have learned to love Walleye. I think it is a pity to fry it and serve it with a thick sauce. It takes out all the subtlety of it. None-the-less, I sometimes serve it fried at lunch to please the customer. For dinner, I treat Walleye the same way that I would treat Halibut or Sole. I like to serve it seared or baked with a light sauce, and with a vegetable garnish that doesn’t overpower the flavor of the fish.

How do we reconcile our intentions to buy from local growers and eat what is seasonal with our desire to eat all the wonderful things we can’t produce here?

That is a great question! It can become an inner struggle for a chef when we work on a menu. I can’t wait for the spring and summer to get local produce for the menu – unfortunately the local growing season is very short. As an example, currently at the Farmer’s Market, one would find plenty of flowers and meat products, but not a lot of produce yet. I try to work with produce that makes sense seasonally. I will avoid serving berries in the winter (unless a customer asks for it), and I will also avoid serving chestnuts in the summer. Fortunately, we live in a country that allows us access to many global foods. If I only purchased foods local to Minnesota, we wouldn’t be eating sweet corn before the end of July!!!

What do you think about all the so-called molecular, more scientific approaches to cooking these days, with the liquid olives and foam and such? Is cooking getting too complex?

I believe that molecular cooking is just here for a while and then we will come back to our traditions. I think it can become a harmful way of cooking: you have a sorcerer’s apprentice with a background in the chemical and biological fields becoming a chef. They are cooking by using additives that are used at mass food production establishments to make foods look prettier. That style of cooking is here to amuse “the foodies” who are bored with traditional dishes. Unfortunately, this style of cooking is based more on its technical exploits than on the achievement of the flavor of the dish. I have tried some of these techniques at my restaurant, but it is just not who I am and what I believe in.

I know you’ve said that perhaps cooking is more of a craft than an art, but when you see how happy and gratified your customers are after a meal, would you like to reconsider?

No, I still think it is craft. Professional soccer players make people happy by scoring; they are not artists in any way. The “art” word has been over used for many years. The “art” connotation in the cooking field was born from the media buzz. I often tell guests that we are not rocket scientists or artists; we are just chefs. Chefs are people who are passionate about what we do. I get a great sense of accomplishment when I see people happy after eating my food. That sense of accomplishment helps me to sleep better at night!

Halibut – 4 servings

3 baby bok choy
12 oz. shitake mushroom
1 tbsp. sesame oil

4 oz. soy Sauce
1 oz. dijon mustard
4 oz. canola oil
1 tbsp. oyster sauce
1 oz. sherry vinegar
green onions

1 cup sesame seed (toasted)
2 whole eggs
1 cup flour

4 halibut steaks (6 oz. each)
1 cup sesame seed (toasted)
2 whole eggs
1 cup flour

In salted boiling water blanch the bok choy until tender and drain. Cut the stem out of the shitake mushroom and sear in sesame oil until light brown. Squeeze the water out of the bok choy and cut into strips of ¼ inch. Toss with shitake mushroom, reserve.

For the vinaigrette, mix the mustard and oyster sauce add the sherry vinegar, soy sauce and the sliced green onions (if you think that the sauce is too acidic add more soy sauce). Add the oil without whisking.

Dredge the fish on one side only in the flour, with a brush spread some of the egg wash and dredge in the sesame seed. In medium hot sauté pan with canola oil put the fish sesame seed side down and put in an oven at 375° for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile warm the bok choy mix and shitake mushroom. Take the fish out of the oven and flip it delicately and cook for another minute (if you like it done more leave it longer). Put the bok choy mix in the center of a plate, top with the fish and spoon the sauce around.

Scallops with Orange Sauce 4 servings

8 large sea scallops
2 leeks
12 oz. of fingerlings or small sized potatoes
1 ½ cup of orange juice
4 oz. butter
1 cup Wondra Flour or all purpose flour
2 tsp of sherry vinegar or aged red wine vinegar
1 large orange

Wash the leeks and potatoes, cut the leeks into medium size sticks, and slice the potatoes. With a knife peel the orange until flesh appears. Cut segments out of the orange. Bring water to a boil in medium size pot. Season with salt and add the leeks in the water. Cook the leeks until tender. Use the same technique for the potatoes. Reduce the orange juice until syrup texture forms and whisk in the diced butter until well incorporated. Add the vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

To sear the scallops, season the seafood with salt and pepper and dredge one side only in the flour. Heat up a sauté pan with oil, when oil is smoky add the scallops to the pan (do not overcrowd the pan!) and place pan in an oven at 400°. Cook for about 4 minutes pull the pan out of the oven and place on a medium heat burner, flip the scallops and sear for another minute.

For plating: warm up the vegetable garnish with a bit of butter; place it in the center of a plate. Top with scallops and add the orange segment. Drizzle sauce around garnish.