This is part two of our interview with chef Aurore de Beauduy of Vogue Bistro in Surprise. Having traveled and worked all over the world, you can imagine de Beauduy is a woman with a quite a lot of stories to tell. Today she shares our favorite of those adventures (at least from those we've gotten to hear so far), about her six-month stage at a French restaurant in communist Russia. She was there in winter of 1998. If you missed the first part of the interview in which she told us how she got started at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, you can read that here.
"We had nothing," she recalls of her days working at the Russian hotel restaurant. All of the ingredients for the were flown in from France, she explains. "We would pray the plane would be able to land in the snow.
"We were packed every night ... and they would come in with the most beautiful jewelry...just amazing," de Beauduy remembers. "This was like, the crème de la crème."
The Party even gave the general manager a lavishly decorated apartment, she says, as a token of their appreciation for his work. But the rest of the French employees lived in the hotel; they weren't allowed to walk around the city freely, or do much of anything besides go to work. And at work they were at the beck and call of their customers, making whatever was ordered to the best of their ability. It was all about extravagance, from the food to the décor. The ladies had attendants on hand just to change their winter boots out for evening shoes upon arrival.
"It was such a waste," she says. "Such a waste."
The rest of her resume reads like a who's-who of French cuisine, with stages in the kitchens of chefs including Michelin Guide celebrities Alain Sanderens, Michel Guerard and Gerard Antonin.
Eventually she would be asked to come work at the Four Seasons Resort in Chicago. There she learned about modern American cuisine and eventually moved on to work at a few of the Windy City's top country clubs. A post at Scottsdale's Silverleaf Country Club brought her to Arizona in 2004, where she stayed for four years before opening her own place.
You'll find Vogue Bistro in a good-looking, relatively newly built strip mall that's vaguely reminiscent of north Scottsdale's DC Ranch Market Street (it was built by the same developer). Scattered among the storefronts are dark windows, indicators that investors and small business owners, like de Beauduy and her husband Roman Yasinsky, hoped this locale would boom. But things haven't gone entirely as planned.
Five years ago when the couple decided to open their own place they looked for more central locations, ones closer to their home in Phoenix. But high prices prevented that from happening. Friends were telling them Sun City and Surprise were solid, growing communities where an independently owned restaurant could flourish, so they set up here.
"It was a good pitch," Yasinsky says. "But we are the only ones that really survived after that first wave of restaurants [that] opened."
To survive the times they've had to make some adjustments. Originally they set out as an approachable French bistro with classic dishes at affordable prices. They found out, however, that the association between French fare and steep prices is a hard one to overcome - and that not everyone is as an adventurous a diner as they wished.
So these days you can still order truly French dishes like rabbit stew and duck confit, even escargot. But more conventional eats are available too, for example, meatloaf, a selection of burgers and lasagna. It's for reasons like these that the couple says they're hesitant to even call themselves a French restaurant anymore. They stick to the term "bistro" now, not wanting to disrespect the reputation of French cuisine.
"We've changed a lot," de Beauduy says. "But we've stayed true to what we do."
What they do is offer their customers an honest dining experience. De Beauduy can attest to the quality of her ingredients because she often picks them herself. She volunteers every week at Singh Farms, where she also gets much of her produce. And though she may be far from her European roots, she does her best to bring those influences to her restaurant, to provide a meal to please her clientele. She and her husband say their policy is simple: never let a customer leave unhappy.
"I am a portrait artist," she says. "I don't get to paint whatever I want - the customer dictates."
Your culinary guilty pleasure: "Double Chocolate Caramel Mocha" Buche de Noel (Yule Log cake) at Christmas time.
One local ingredient you love and one ingredient you wish you could get locally: I love local Tepary beans grown here by native people since pre-Columbian times and use them in many of my dishes. I wish we could get the freshest seafood here as they do in Maryland or Washington.
Your favorite drink and where you get it: My own daily juice made with delicious vegetables that come from Singh Farm in Scottsdale.
Describe the most memorable meal you've ever had: A multi course dinner at L'Arpege, the restaurant owned by Chef Alain Passarde. One of the most memorable moments was an exquisite blue-footed chicken from the Bresse region that was steamed in a natural stomach casing and served with heirloom vegetables "en papillote," cooked on a cedar plank inside a parchment bag.
If you could travel to any restaurant in the world it would be to: Narisawa in Tokyo. My friends came back raving about their experience in this world famous restaurant, known for its very daring ingredients and presentations.
Your best advice for young chefs: Follow your passion and try to make every plate remarkable, no matter where you are.
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Where do you see or want to see yourself in ten years: I'd like to be at forefront of the movement that will make possible for every American to eat healthy every day, no matter how much they earn or where they live.
Check out our past Chef and Tell interviews with:
Justin Olsen - Bink's Midtown Marco, Jinette, and Edmundo Meraz - Republica Empanada Brian Peterson - Cork Brian Webb - Hey Joe! Filipino Street Food Lester Gonzalez - Cowboy Ciao Renetto-Mario Etsitty - Tertio German Sega - Roka Akor Marco Bianco - Pizzeria Bianco Brad and Kat Moore - Short Leash Hot Dogs and Sit...Stay