Celebrate Bastille Day With a French Chef and the French Cowboy

Photo by Yan Caradec
Vive la France!
Every July 14, the French mark the storming of the Bastille in 1789 with La Fête Nationale or Bastille Day. It's similar to our own Fourth of July in that it commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution, which led to the abolition of feudalism in the country and the proclamation of the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen." In France, it's a major holiday, filled with fêtes and fireworks.

This year, Houstonians can join in on the fun with Philippe Verpiand and Philippe Schmit at Étoile, where the two Frenchmen will be preparing a special Bastille Day meal for guests.

It turns out the chefs have more connections than simply being born in the same country. Jean-Michel Diot, a French chef and restaurateur, opened Park Bistro in New York City, where Schmit served as chef de cuisine before he relocated to Houston. In 1998, Diot opened Tapenade Restaurant in La Jolla, and Verpiand was hired as the chef de cuisine at that restaurant. The two Philippes met for the first time in 2001, when Schmit joined Verpiand at Tapenade to cook a Bastille Day meal. Now, Verpiand is hoping to continue that tradition in Houston with his buddy, the French Cowboy.

Photo by Deb Smail
Philippe Schmit aka the French Cowboy, a title he wears proudly.
"I obviously knew of his reputation because we worked for the same owner in different cities," Schmit says. "I was in New York, and he was in San Diego, but we'd exchanged a couple of phone calls. When he was thinking that he needed to move from San Diego, I tried to give him some advice. I tried to motivate him to move here, because I thought he would be a great addition."

This will be their first time cooking together since the Bastille Day meal in 2001, but the planning process for the meal was fairly simple, as the chefs have a lot in common, both culturally and culinarily.

"We see each other all the time, so we talk about food and everything else," Schmit says. "We're flexible with each other. Sometimes we have to smack ourselves in the face to get each other to leave when we're together. We knew each other before, but now we're friends."

This story continues on the next page.

Location Info

Etoile Cuisine et Bar

1101 Uptown Park Blvd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Kris Bistro & Wine Lounge

7070 Allensby St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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