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    Had Madeleine Dee become a starlet, she wouldn’t be nearly content as she is now. At least, that’s what the chef says about her unexpected journey into the culinary arts. 

    “The acting bug bit me pretty hard when I was about 12, and all I honestly wanted to do when I graduated high school was drive out to Hollywood to become a movie star,” Dee said. “I had always been very fond of school though and had always pictured myself getting like five degrees, so I started at the University of Louisville regardless of how badly I wanted to be in California.” 

    Dee did well during her time at the University of Louisville-- she studied four languages and made good grades-- but ultimately dropped out, her heart and mind elsewhere. “When I dropped out, I realized that I had no way of supporting myself in Los Angeles and was an idiot 18-year-old kid without an education. Culinary school seemed like a cool way of making sure I could have a job when I went to pursue acting, so I enrolled at Sullivan,” Dee said. 

    “When I graduated, I worked in a restaurant for a while and then decided to open my current business, No Place Like Home, but I knew where I wanted to be. I drove out to L.A. in May of 2011.” 

    Ultimately though, Dee hated the city so much that she only stayed for five days. She returned to Louisville and threw herself into No Place Like Home, her personal chef service.

    “It took me a bit of time to adjust to the fact that I was turning my back on a dream, and it took a few years to really get over it, but I fell completely in love with cooking when I got back home,” Dee said. And people fell in love with her cooking, too. 

    Amy Hoagland, one of her clients, initially hired Dee to prepare a birthday dinner. 

    “Our first time having her in our home to cook was my 45th Birthday. We had invited eight people to the dinner party. Madeleine started to prepare the five-course meal at about 1 p.m. that day and never stopped cooking and serving until 10 p.m. that night,” Hoagland said. 

    The menu included risotto cakes with roasted tomato jam, spinach salad with fried duck eggs, fried shallots, tomatoes, bacon and strawberries, short ribs with butternut squash gratin and asparagus, and a chocolate cake with whipped coffee buttercream icing.

    “I have never seen someone work so hard in order to prepare a meal," Hoagland said. "She was nonstop and even threw in a birthday cake. What was so evident was her passion for food and everyone noticed it and was impressed!” 

    Though Dee may have felt like she turned her back on her dream of being an actress, the feedback she's received from her clients has inspired her to embark on a new dream - opening a small, homemade grocery store in the Highlands called Fond.

    “I am going to prepare most of the products for sale by hand, including items like ready-to-heat appetizers, meals, baked goods, sauces, soups, stocks and baby food," Dee said. "I'm even going to make and sell soap! Everything will be made out of real ingredients, and as much as possible will be local."

    She plans on selling local produce and products from companies like Art Eatables and Bourbon Barrel Foods. Fond will also offer monthly cooking classes and weekly 5-course private dinners. Menus will change each weekend.

    “The name ‘Fond’ was chosen because it's a word that is very beautiful and meaningful to me," Dee said. "In French, it means ‘base’ or ‘foundation.’ Fond is one of the first terms you learn in culinary school, and it represents the yummy bits of food that stick to the pan when you sear something. You can deglaze these bits to add extra flavor to sauces. Fond is the core of cooking. It also means ‘heart’ and ‘soul’ in French. This word encompasses my entire vision for the store - bringing food back to the basics of cooking by preparing items from real ingredients, sourcing local products, feeding people special meals made by hand and teaching people how to cook.” 

    Dee feels that while Louisville has an exceptionally strong culinary scene that is continuing to blossom, Fond can fill a void by providing culinary instruction as well as locally-sourced and readymade products. 

    “Fond will also fill a void simply by being located in the Highlands," Dee said. "Several dozen people have let me know that the Highlands desperately needs a small grocery store that residents can walk to and find items like ready-to-heat meals. Everyone misses Burger's Market. Also, Louisville is full of people who love to entertain but don't have a lot of time. Fond will sell things like appetizers and baked goods that will require minimal effort but yield maximum elegance and deliciousness. Customers can keep items in their freezers and enjoy them whenever they please. Wouldn't it be nice to have gourmet appetizers ready to bake when friends drop in unexpectedly?” 

    However, before the dream of Fond can be realized for Dee - and before Highlanders can start enjoying her delicious appetizers - the whole project has to be funded. Dee is looking at a space at Barret Avenue that would require a fair investment, around $30,000, to make it workable as a commercial kitchen. She has launched an Indiegogo campaign to crowdfund some of the expenses. 

    “Crowdfunding with Indiegogo is only part of my plans for gathering all the start up capital I need to open Fond," Dee said. "I need $30,000, so that's what the goal of the campaign is, but I certainly don't expect to raise that much money with crowdfunding. I set it up so that I get to keep whatever gets contributed."

    “Ideally, I'd like to raise about $10,000 on Indiegogo," she continued. "It's almost halfway there right now, which is amazing. I'm also putting in some of my own money, I've been pre-approved for a small business loan and I have a couple people who are interested in investing. No matter what, Fond is happening. I will find the funding one way or another. Crowdfunding allows me to start the process a little less in debt and with a little more peace of mind.” 

    Dee said that one of the benefits of crowdfunding is that you get to offer perks, or incentives, for contributing. She designed her perks so that each donation is essentially that person's first purchase with Fond. She hopes that this will, in turn, make her future customers feel special - something that is a focus for Dee in both creating fond and in her work as a personal chef.

    “During a dinner I did a few months ago, a man stopped mid-entree and said, ‘I feel special.’ All the other diners smiled and nodded,” Dee said. “When I cook, I do so with care and with love. I want all my diners to feel special and important. That will be the main focus for me at Fond.”

    To check out or contribute to Madeleine Dee's Indiegogo campaign for Fond, click here. 

     

    Photos courtesy of Jolea Brown Andersen of Creative Photography.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Ashlie Danielle Stevens's picture

    About Ashlie Danielle Stevens

    I am a freelance food, arts and culture writer. Among other publications, my work has appeared at The Atlantic’s CityLab, Eater, Slate, Salon, The Guardian, Hyperallergic and National Geographic’s food blog, The Plate.

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