This article appears in the February 2014 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.
For Guy Genoud, everything is simple. “It’s not complicated,” the Brasserie Provence owner says of his menu, which lists 13 French-titled categories: les hors d’oeuvres, les potages, les poisons, and so on. The magert de canard, a duck breast with olives, thyme, lentils du Puy and artichoke barigoule? “Barigoule is a very simple process of cooking the artichokes,” he tells me in a heavy French accent. “But there is only one way to do it,” he adds, as not to confuse simplicity with correctness.
The brasserie opened in mid-October, just off Hurstbourne Parkway’s intersection with Shelbyville Road. “The timing was right,” owner Guy Genoud says. “Great demographic. Not too many independent restaurants around here — mostly chain restaurants. And I am the only brasserie.” Neighboring businesses include a hair school, Talbots, Joseph A. Bank and a Bristol Bar and Grille. Inside, you’ll probably hear an Édith Piaf song, catch a soccer match on television and smell some concoction of cooked meats and herbs de Provence.
Even getting his restaurant off the ground — in a foodie city bursting with new players — was logical and seamless for Genoud. “I always thought I would open a restaurant in France, and I’m glad I never did because the government would make it impossible,” he says. So practical of Genoud, who has worked in the hospitality business in the United States for 25 years. “When I was in New York, I was looking to open a place there, but the real estate was so high,” he says. “My wife and I were looking to move out from New York and go down a little bit south, where it’s a bit warmer.” He lets out a guttural laugh because we happened to meet on that sub-zero Monday in January.
Genoud was assistant to the general manager at the Brown Hotel for four years. There, he met Brasserie Provence’s chef de cuisine, Edoardo Bacci. “People say, ‘An Italian chef in a French restaurant?’ Yeah, I mean, especially the Provençal cuisine — the ingredients are very similar to Italy,” the restaurateur says. “I’m closer to Roma than I am to Paris!” The 50-year-old Cannes native lets out another of his laughs. He sources most of his flavors from France — the herbs of Provence, the cured meats, the pâtés, the olives and olive oils, violet flower jam, the lavender.
Chef de cuisine Edoardo Bacci grew up in Italy but came here in his teens. “I went back there to get a job, cook, get a little bit of exposure at different restaurants,” he says. “I decided to come back a year later; you know, you meet the wife — ‘Oh, sure, I’ll move back.’” Bacci’s côte de porc au miel de lavande (honey lavender glazed prime pork chop served with gratin dauphinois and ratatouille, $22), has become a restaurant staple.
Dishes range from soupe au pistou, a vegetable and white bean soup ($7), to Châteaubriand, a large beef tenderloin ($75 for two). “The idea of a brasserie is to say to the people, ‘Everybody’s welcome,’” Genoud says. “It’s all kind of a mixture of people and different social levels.” A few nights before I met with Genoud, I sat one booth over from “mayor for life” Jerry Abramson, who was one booth over from a family with two young children. (The menu includes a menu enfant.
Genoud’s wife, co-owner and photographer Stacy Duncan, planned the look of the restaurant. One section recalls rustic France, with a stone fireplace and ornate chandeliers. “Over there you see the lighting has changed; it’s more of the urban look of the restaurant,” Genoud says. Duncan’s photographs are printed on the walls, including one of the kitchen of Genoud’s grandmother. “All these pictures are there because of what they represent: where I come from,” he says
“It’s very dee-verse,” Genoud says. “Hold on a second.” He rises to greet a woman who has just walked in the door. “Did you get my answer, my dear?” he asks her. As I wait, an accordion song plays and I feel closer to Nice than the East End. Genoud returns a bit ruffled. “Always a difficulty getting French cheese,” he says. “It’s always a pro-cess.”
No, nothing is complicated at Brasserie Provence — as long as there’s French cheese.
Photos by Chris Witzke
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