The Man Behind the Meals
By: S.W. Kirch
Where does a chef go on his day off? If you’ve ever been to Aspen’s French Alpine Bistro – Crêperie du Village, you know that its charm is hard to beat. So, even though there are numerous other fine restaurants in Aspen, aka the “Manhattan of the Mountains”, after many attempts at dining elsewhere, Chef Eric Francou and his Danish wife, Tea Alba, decided – you guessed it – to enjoy a meal at the place they know and love best, even on their day off: the French Alpine Bistro. According to Francou, “There is a soul here – it’s the whole package of the [dining] experience, and I think it’s unique.” With his background, he should know.
Born and raised in Grenoble, France (if you’ve never been, look it up – you’ll want to go), Francou remembers the fine, fresh food of his Italian mother and French father. Growing up with mouth-watering dishes such as homemade pasta with wild broccoli and parmesan cheese, or rabbit with green olives and white wine sauce, Francou acquired a taste for classic, well-seasoned dishes. This passion was further developed during summer family visits with one of his cousins in Rome, who was an executive chef. There, at the age of seven, taking in the engaging atmosphere of a restaurant’s kitchen, a seed was planted.
This seed took root when Francou graduated with an equivalent to a Master’s degree in culinary management at the original, prestigious Paul Bocuse Institute in Écully, France. There, Francou learned all the skills and techniques required to work at Michelin starred restaurants, such as La Bastide Saint-Antoine in Grasse, France, which is run by Jacques Chibois, a renowned chef. However, after the last 20 years in New York City, where he continued to add to, and polish, both his culinary and management skills at various restaurants – such as the Mad 28 – Francou and his wife chose to switch lanes by heading west and living somewhere where the traffic consists mostly of hikers, skiers and other outdoor-beauty seekers. Francou reached out to French Alpine Bistro owners Karin and Raphael Derly, and, when the time was right, accepted a position as the restaurant’s executive chef.
Here, he brings his top traditional training and love for timeless cooking to the Rocky Mountains. One of his favorite dishes is the Coq Au Vin, a French favorite of chicken braised in wine, lardon, and mushrooms. Sample it next time you’re at the restaurant, or read on for the recipe, and try making it at home. Regardless, you’ll be charmed.