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Here is an interview in which Steve speaks with Brigitte. Brigitte shares some secrets to her French restaurant’s success, along with some tips on French cooking. This is an advanced podcast partly because Brigitte does have a French accent and there is the noise of the restaurant in the background.
STEVE: Good morning Brigitte.
We are sitting in La Regalade which is a very popular French restaurant in West Vancouver at the corner of 22nd and Marine Drive. La Regalade is a project of two very experienced people in the world of French cuisine; a couple Brigitte and Alain Raye. Brigitte how long have you had this restaurant?
BRIGITTE: Only three months.
STEVE: You have been very successful?
BRIGITTE: So far so good. We are really excited about it.
STEVE: What is the secret to success in the restaurant business?
BRIGITTE: There is no secret. It’s a lot of work and a lot of experience. We have been in this business now for over 20 years. So we still learn, but it’s the experience, the secret of it.
STEVE: Should I say, as a customer, that a big part of it is the good food?
BRIGITTE: You can say it, yes! My husband would like that.
STEVE: And also the very pleasant and warm welcome that the customers get when they come here.
BRIGITTE: That is very important. It’s the atmosphere, the French touch that people like also.
STEVE: What would you say, from the point of view of someone who is not so familiar with French Cuisine, can we talk about the cuisine here? What are some of the principals in terms of ingredients?
BRIGITTE: We use first only fresh products, and my husband and Steve, I should mention my son is working with us, they are making a lot of preparation in the morning with a lot of fresh ingredients that are cooked slowly. It takes a lot of time to make all the preparation for the cuisine, but also for the pastry.
STEVE: You also make your own pastry here?
BRIGITTE: We do. We have a selection of about 10 different desserts, freshly made every day and people can see them on the counter when they come in so that’s a little something on the top also.
STEVE: I must say the pastry here is absolutely spectacular! But a question: you have to make a certain number of pastry items and what if they are not consumed, not eaten, do you take them home and eat them yourselves?
BRIGITTE: Yes, every night we have a lovely staff meal! And we eat what is not sold.
STEVE: Now, in terms of the ingredients. When we talk about French cuisine we talk about sauces. What are some of the tastes or spices?
BRIGITTE: So we first always work with stocks which is the base of the sauces, so chicken, veal and fish stock.
STEVE: These are prepared ahead of time?
BRIGITTE: Yes. Cook slowly for about 4 hours each. And after we use cream and spices.
We use different spices; we use curry, we use cumin which are not French spices but that brings a little touch that people like. And cream, and wine. A lot of the sauces have wine in them.
STEVE: Yesterday I had the veal kidneys with mustard sauce, which was unbelievably delicious. Does that sauce also have wine in it?
BRIGITTE: No, it’s veal stock, cream, mustard, salt and pepper.
STEVE: And with that there was some hot stock with some cheese and white wine.
BRIGITTE: Cream, sour cream. Salt and pepper.
STEVE: And would your cuisine here be northern or southern France?
BRIGITTE: Actually it is from Lyon, which is in the centre of France. It’s bistro cuisine, which our grandmother and mother used to do.
Very warm dishes, but a lot of preparation. Most of them are cooked slowly, for at least 2 hours.
STEVE: Lyon is also known as the centre of French cuisine.
BRIGITTE: That is where the famous chef Bocuse is and the name of the restaurants they are called .. Little bistros where you can have brain, intestines and funny food that people over here don’t really appreciate.
STEVE: And of course, with French food, one must drink wine.
BRIGITTE: Of course! White and red. We have a nice selection of not expensive wine; most of them are under $30. And we serve also by carafe.
STEVE: So typically if someone is not familiar with ordering in a French restaurant, how does one choose?
BRIGITTE: You should trust the waiter.
We recommend you have an appetizer, then a main course and dessert. The portions are quite big here so it’s good to have an appetizer, a main course and the dessert. Select the specials of the day. That’s something of the day, so that’s a good way to choose.
STEVE: Sometimes with Asian food, people share the dishes as they come in. Is that done at all?
BRIGITTE: Yes it is. People who know how it works here now, they know they can have an appetizer and share it, then have a main course and share dessert.
STEVE: Is your clientele mostly from around the neighbourhood, or are you attracting people from elsewhere?
BRIGITTE: Oh no!
Actually we have people from Vancouver across the bridge now, because we have had nice reviews in the Vancouver Sun that brought us clientele not only from West Vancouver. Actually the first week we had people from the neighbourhood and they talked a lot about us, and so we have people all over Vancouver now.
STEVE: Now tell me, champagne is also associated very much with France. How does one drink the champagne? Do you drink that with the meal?
BRIGITTE: Actually here it’s quite difficult to sell champagne. But in France people have it to start with, as a cocktail. They have it plain or with a touch of black currant or raspberry.
STEVE: But if you open a bottle of champagne, you have to finish the whole thing because you can’t put the cork back in?
BRIGITTE: We do.
We keep the bottle with the cork on for a few days.
STEVE: Oh really. So it is possible to serve a glass of champagne.
BRIGITTE: Yes, we do serve it by the glass for $10, which is a good deal.
STEVE: Again, getting back to the ingredients, what would be the typical spices?
BRIGITTE: Spices. We use a lot of thyme, bay leaf, and what else, rosemary, tarragon, small fresh herbs and spices.
STEVE: Do you use the bouquet garni?
BRIGITTE: Absolutely. With the stock we put onions, carrots, bouquet garni? which is the leeks, parsley, a little bit of thyme.
STEVE: Perhaps you could explain exactly what a bouquet garni is.
BRIGITTE: It’s tied with a little string. So it’s leeks, thyme, parsley – just put that in your stock and it gives a lot of flavour.
STEVE: And what kinds of vegetables do you use?
BRIGITTE: Oh we use a lot of carrots for sure, mushrooms, potatoes, and zucchini, eggplant. That’s it.
STEVE: And of course onions.
BRIGITTE: Of course, onions, shallots, and the garlic – don’t forget the garlic!
STEVE: And of course other than that it’s fish and all meat and also you mentioned sweetbreads and kidneys.
BRIGITTE: Not a lot of fish, actually, we just serve tuna and mussels for the seafood. We have a spring salad and calamari.
STEVE: Have you had many customers of Asian origin?
BRIGITTE: Not enough!
STEVE: Thank you very much.
BRIGITTE: Merci beaucoup.