If you won’t believe me, believe Business Insider, a New-York-based international website which recently selected Chef Philip Quillec’s family restaurant, Café Provence, as one of the 100 best U.S. restaurants for the second time. This award comes after several others, including Open Table’s annual assessment by its diners. Although Philip attributes the success to everyone there, it’s clear he has made a difference since he became executive chef in 2008, returning after stints in France, Argentina, and Brazil.
Café Provence has always been a bit of an anomaly, nesting there in the Prairie Village Shopping Center – a truly French restaurant which has always embraced fresh ingredients including fish flown in daily. And Chef Quillec’s journey has been anything but standard. He started out in the kitchen of course, at the tender age of 13. He didn’t especially want to be a chef, seeing all the hard work and long hours his father, Patrick, and uncle, Daniel, put into the restaurant. But eventually he started to enjoy it, then became enamored, to the point that he embraced the profession fully. In fact, he even met now wife Paola in the kitchen of the Fairmont Hotel. Now they have a two year old daughter, Valentina.
I asked him what the hardest thing he must do. That elicited a pause . . . “Hmmm . . . there are many. I suppose it’s making everyone happy – guests, staff, everyone.” What’s the most exciting or best? “The same. I love it when people tell me they like what I’ve done. Success to me comes from challenging myself – I guess that’s why the accolades and awards mean something to me. People are appreciating what we do.”
“I took over almost 10 years ago and the first few years, it was a tremendous amount of work. Creating my new staff, creating a new menu or tweaking it, working with vendors – everything. There’s a big difference between being head chef mostly focused on preparing great food and being an owner with family and all the obligations that entails. The reputations of my entire family and my fellow workers is at stake, all the time.” Nobody becomes a chef/owner for an easy life, that was clear to me from his comments, but he says life is easier because his evening staff is led by chef de cuisine, Dusty Remsing and he has the full support of family, several of whom work in the business with him. And it’s not just at Café Provence – it’s also at their French Market down the street with the foods from the restaurant there as well as other items. Have you tried the Saturday crepes yet? Oh, yum.
When asked about his favorite dish at the restaurant, he opted for a left-over piece of fish usually with a bit of beurre blanc or perhaps the veal scaloppini (pounded thin every day by his uncle), a favorite with his clients. Or their summer heirloom tomato soup, chunkier than most, to which he will add some rice. Besides cooking and helping to care for daughter, he is a big sports fan, especially the Chiefs; his entire family gets together at least once a week; and he likes entertaining – when he cooks for his friends. “My friends don’t say no,” he laughs.
Stay tuned, folks, for Chef Quillec is going to share a recipe with me soon. You’ll be the second person to see it. He’s promised that even I will be able to make it.
3936 West 69th Terrace
Prairie Village, KS 66202
Prairie Village, KS 66202