A passion for food
My mother was a great cook. We lived in a small apartment in Brest, so when she would cook, I was right by her side. We would go to the market daily to get products — fish at the port, meat from the butcher, charcuterie from the charcutier, bread from the boulangerie. We did not have a fridge, so food had to be eaten that day.
Even when we finally did get a refrigerator, my mother continued cooking the same way, daily, with the same passion and love. She would buy the rabbit live to make her famous “Civet de Lapin”, rabbit in red wine, and I can still taste it today.
Every Wednesday and Saturday she cooked for the whole family. Crepes mostly. We did not have much money, but we ate well. She would send me to my aunts and uncles in the country outside of Quimper for the Summer. There I would go harvest wild berries for my aunts, and we would spend the evening making jams and listening to old stories of the family. My Aunt Anna had chickens, rabbits, and a garden and would cook such great feasts.
I used to marvel at her commitment to create such wonderful meals when life was so hard for her. I worked with her at a creperie in Crozon during the summer time. It was hard work. I started as a dishwasher at 7am and finished in the evening around 10pm. I worked hard because she worked hard. She is the root for my passion of food.
Discovering The United States
In the Summer of 1978, we went to see my sister in Florida. She had cancer and was not doing well. She and her husband were opening a new restaurant, French Connection, and ask me to help around. I did not speak English at that time, and most of the workers were Cubans and did not speak English either. So, I learn Spanish before I learn English.
When the time was up, and I needed to get back to France, my sister was not doing well, and my mother ask me if we could stay longer. I agreed. I then became involved in the opening of the restaurant, and since I was a curious person I got experience in working front and back. It was then, when Chef Patrick Treard (Ecole Jean Ferrandi – Paris and Hotel de la Montagne, Montreal) took me in the kitchen and started to classically train me, that I started to realize I had a knack for this.
Chef Patrick Treard was a hard worker and so was I. He had trained in Paris and taught me the respect and traditions of fine dining. He also gave me my first book, Le repertoire de la cuisine, which I still have. Pastry Chef Patrice Caillac trained me in the pastry area and I enjoyed it (I had a sweet tooth).
This is when I realize I could do this for my life.
EMERGING FROM A DIFFICULT TIME
The French culture in the kitchen was that of tough love. We worked hard, lived hard and played hard. After the death of my sister I realized I needed to move away from the fast life of Miami.
I moved to Charleotte North Carolina in 1981 – 1989. After a year there I opened my first restaurant with my brother Daniel.
Chez Daniel French Restaurant – Charlotte, North Carolina
It was here where I truly came into my own and began exercising my culinary creativity. With my own garden out back, I grew vegetables and herbs, made charcuterie from scratch, baked my own bread, made my own cheeses and even made the restaurant’s butter from fresh cream. My fresh and delicate creations were often compared in the press to the style of Freddie Girardet.
From France Awarded “one of best Chef in United state”, 1986 I was more focused on business, hard work and cooking and I experienced success. I was only 26 years old and owned 2 restaurant, Chez Daniel and the Artist Café.
I moved to Lexington KY, in 1989 to help a friend with his restaurant Acajou and then to The Normandie Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
In 1990 I moved Burlington, Vermont as Chef Instructor, Banquet at the New England Culinary Institute, the Inn at Essex, Students learn in 13 production kitchens that include restaurants, bakeries, banquets, garde manger, and corporate dining rooms. We have more than 500 full-time students;
As a Chef Instructor I was responsible for the educational training and evaluation of students. As a teacher, I learned to respect the cook, the student. I started looking at life in a different way. Lots of students expected me to be “French.” You know, scream, curse and throw a fit, but that was not my nature anymore.
It was a very hard time for me, but it’s also when I had my first experience with God and became a believer.
Joanne decide to come visit with the kids that summer. I hired a cook that preached Jesus to me and my life totally changed when I accepted. Joanne and I got back together, I did not curse anymore, I stop smoking cigarettes and all I could do is read the bible. I had changed.
In Vermont, as a teacher, I learned to respect the cook, the student. I started looking at life in a different way. Lots of students expected me to be “French.” You know, scream, curse and throw a fit, but that was not my nature anymore.
We then moved to Georgia where I started working within the corporate world, 1990 – 1997 with Private Club Associates, PCA at The Chattahoochee River Club, Columbus, Georgia and The Windsor Hotel, Americus, Georgia.
I earned “Chef of the South, the Atlanta Journal, 1997” and that was another change.
When I did the dinner for President Jimmy Carter’s daughter, Amy, at the Windsor Hotel, I listen to his speech and felt humbled and fortunate to be there that I had tear in my eyes. I saw him coming for dinner and shake hand with every customer in the house. Nobody asked him. What a humble man I thought. I for the first time felt like I belonged in this country.
It brought me back to my childhood and the dedication that my mother had.
Georgia was a great time in my Life but like the business tend to do, we had to move again.
On our way to Kansas City by Ohio, I came to be an Executive chef 1997-1999 for the Omni Hotel Kansas City, MO. I then had an opportunity to partner in a new venture as a chef at Hannah Bistro Café on State Line.
I really enjoyed this place but life had some twist yet for me.
In 2000 I opened Acclaimed and Award winning restaurants Café Provence & Cassis in Kansas City, Kansas.
In 2008 I decided to go on the road and experience other concepts to continue my education. I moved to Vegas, to San Diego, CA (Hexagone -French Brasserie), to Cohasset, MA (The Red Lion Inn 1704) and Opening of The Sheraton Convention Center and Casino, Starwood Hotels San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Joanne and then decide to keep Café Provence with the family and moved to Sebastopol, Sonoma, California in 2010. A refreshing time for us.
The French Garden Brasserie Restaurant was a Farm to Table Brasserie. French Garden Restaurant offers Farm-to-Table, French-inspired Sonoma County Regional Cuisine featuring daily harvested produce from our 30 acre certified organic farm. Our menus, expertly prepared by Executive Chef Patrick Quillec, was designed around the seasonal bounty of Sonoma County.
When I took the position of Executive Chef at French Garden, The Bistro was on the edge of closing, needing a new vision and had gone through a succession of chefs since it opened, none of whom quite captured the vision of the owners.
Toward the end of 2011, Jeff Cox, the Author/Food Critic wrote:
“Now, and since last year, the kitchen has been in the hands of Executive Chef Patrick Quillec, and he is finally doing justice to that vision”.
As I reflect on the year 2011, I am proud to announce the “Guide Michelin” recognition of my work in their new 2012 San Francisco Guide and would like to extend my thanks & gratitude to the crew that assisted me in this endeavor.
In 2012 Joanne and I decided to return to Kansas City, Kansas and settle for good. We then opened the French Market, Verbena and The Market at Meadowbrook. It has been quite a ride but we are very thankful for the staff and customers we have met through our journey.
A Lifelong Love Of Music
Music has always been a part of my life. I grew up with the Beatles, seating on the window of my apt playing the guitar and trying to sing. At least the words were not complicated. When we got together in Brittany, France, the evenings always turned to songs. Everyone new a song. The Bretons love to sing and dance and that is in my DNA. I have always brought that with me wherever I went.
I remember sitting on the steps of Chez Daniel Restaurant, in Charlotte, with the dishwasher, a country boy from the mountains, and jamming on our guitars at the end of the service. I hired a good friend and great musician, Conrad Hunter, to book bands for the new place I opened in Charlotte, the Artist Café, and we would sit with some of the greatest American artist after the shows and eat and talk music and life.
A while back I met Alain Raspaud and asked him to come and play with his band, Made in France Band, at my restaurant, Café Provence, for Bastille Day. He then asked if I wanted to join sometimes and so I did. Made in France Band has been a great experience for me.
We believe that the French music is something that Americans do not know well. Other than Edith Piaf, they don’t realize that many older songs are French in the beginning. So, we try to educate when we sing songs like la mer (Beyond The Sea), Comme d’habitude (My Way), Les feuilles mortes (The Fallen Leaves) and more, as well as more modern like De Palmas and Cabrel. At the end of the day, it is the whole event that brings forth the sense of French community. The food, the wine, the music, the conversations. Just like home.
Forming Rivers Of Life Music
In 1990, I became a follower of Jesus Christ. I went in the street with my church group and ministered to homeless and the lost. It is there, in Georgia, that I started writing songs and melodies about my faith. I wrote them down and kept them for years never thinking that one day I would put them on record. I met many good friends that suggested and helped me realize this project.
My mission today remains that all things are possible if you believe. I simply enjoy God’s intimacy and presence and experience His love. I write hoping to encourage people to come on the journey and be who they were made to be.