Chef Chat, Part 1: David Denis of Le Mistral
Photo by Mai Pham David Denis of Le Mistral came to America as a private chef.
This is the first part of a two-part Chef Chat interview. Please visit us tomorrow to read Part 2.
We hear the argument all the time: Houston is so much more than what you find in the Inner Loop. Venture over to the west side of town, and you'll find gems like the international food emporium Phoenicia Specialty Foods, the quaint Peruvian Bistro Lemon Tree, Akaushi burgers at The Burger Guys, delicious Pan-Asian at Rattan Asian Bistro, and authentic French cuisine at Le Mistral, where chef and owner David Denis has been offering great cuisine to a multinational clientele and sophisticated palates for 11 years. One of the first restaurants of its caliber to open on the West Side, Le Mistral took a big chance outside the Loop. We sat down for a candid chat with Denis to find out what made him choose that particular location in lieu of something closer to the center of town.
EOW: I think you took a big risk moving out here in the Energy Corridor. I know you've been here for a while. What made you open your restaurant here?
DD: You're right. It was a big risk. When I opened the restaurant, people said, "Man, you're opening in San Antonio."
EOW: It is far.
DD: It is far, but really it's not too far. It depends on where you live in Houston and the time that you want to come, for sure. If you jump on I-10, it's very fast. I live on Chimney Rock, and people who live in this area jump on I-10 and it takes only 20 minutes. Anyway, when we started 11 years ago, it was a small little place down the street not far away from this location.
EOW: How many seats?
DD: It was 45 seats. Very small. And we started there, because at the time, we had absolutely no money, so we could not afford to go inside the loop.
EOW: Okay, let's backtrack. Eleven years ago, you were in your early thirties. What made you decide to open a restaurant at that time?
DD: I came to the United States as a private chef in 1996. I had met some Americans when I was in St. Tropez, who had asked me to cook some private dinners at their house in the south of France.
EOW: Where were you working at the time?
DD: I was working in Switzerland. Long story short, in Switzerland, you can only work for nine months. They do a contract for nine months. You have to leave the country for three months. And so every summer, June, July and August, I would leave Switzerland and go back to south France, where I'm from.