Chef Anne-Marie Lalande, better known as Nanou
Don't say bon voyage to Bon Appetit owner Greg Johnson just yet, but there will a new face at 805 Williamson St. starting May 21: Chef Anne-Marie Lalande, better known as Nanou, who hails from Provence, France.
Although the name of the Willy Street cafe is French, the current menu is more of a rotation of culinary improvisation, says Johnson; Nanou will offer a classic French cooking from scratch: Savory tarts, croque-monsieur, quiche, and more, which she will be serving Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-3p.m.
Nanou will design weekly menus for both dine-in and take-out (to which items like quiche are well suited). "She does really good desserts, too" says Johnson. He'll keep cooking during dinner hours and weekend brunches for the time being.
Johnson met Nanou while she was eating in his restaurant. Johnson pleasantly surprised her with a conversation in her native language. "I started speaking French with her and she got all excited," he says. The two hit it off, and she approached him about cooking a dinner together, which they did. That led to talks about starting up a business together.
Johnson suggested that she could do what she wanted in his restaurant without the costs and hoop-jumping of starting up a new business: "Nanou has the energy and I think she has a good head for business so I think she's going to do well. "
For Johnson, it also means a needed move away from 14-hour days. "It gets old after a while," he says, ultimately hoping that Nanou may buy into the restaurant as an owner.
With more time now, Johnson plans to allocate more energy to his art, collages made from paintings and/or photos that he cuts up and reassembles. Many of his pieces hang on the walls in the restaurant. Most of his staff, too, has consisted of fellow artists and writers.
"The food is what supports the art," he says. Johnson holds an art degree and spent time painting throughout Canada when he was younger. "I'm an artist -- this is what I want to do," he says.
Johnson will be showing his art at the third floor of the Enterprise Center at 100 S. Baldwin on May 26 and 27.