In the back of the freezer at his St. Albans home, near trays of homemade moussaka and dozens of containers of tomato sauce, lie near. Francois de Millogues Maintains tubs of six pounds of “super fat.” For more than eight years, de Mélogue, 58, has been saving delicious cooking fats from his duck confit, occasionally mixing in other fats like well-marinated lard. After the mixture is used up and cooled, it goes back to the freezer until it needs it again. and again.
De Mélogue’s fat has a story – a history made up of many meals – and that suits it well. Writer, photographer, and former founder of Chicago’s famous Provençal restaurant Pili Pili, de Mélogue owns more than 2,000 cookbooks, most of which are historical and French. He’s busy writing three on his own.
Today, de Mélogue earns baguettes and baguettes as a freelance writer and owner of VT . shotand photo shoots for architecture firms, real estate agencies, and other Vermont small businesses. What binds all his work together is his passion for weaving stories using light, colour, words and food.
Some of de Mélogue’s articles on gastronomy – eg “How the rabbit taught me to cook” At the time he was tricked into eating a childhood pet – he appeared on Medium’s Heated website, which was originally formatted by Mark Bittman.
While Bittman’s character in the cookbook is a “minimalist” character, De Mélogue leans more toward “maximum,” embracing an aesthetic that is exuberant and lively. His kitchen is elegant and spacious, but has a dispenser used only for pastis, a clear, pale green, anise-flavored alcoholic beverage that turns opaque and milky when mixed with a few drops of water. Nearby is an antique mezzaluna, a curved Italian herb chopper, resting on a thick, hollow butcher’s block from use.
Through a sliding door, visitors find an ornate yard and an ever-expanding garden, filled with heirloom French and Italian tomatoes, radicchio, and alliums like leeks and leeks. Deep red peppers cling to plants that quickly turn brown. And then there’s the zucchini: “Last year, we’ve had 150 meals in a row with zucchini,” de Meloge said with a chuckle. This year, his 11-year-old insisted he grow fewer squash plants.
Most days, de Mélogue serves up restaurant-worthy midday meals to his family. His wife, Lisa, an executive assistant for a tech company, leaves her home office at lunchtime to dine on an array of salads, chickpea flour pancakes known as juicy, and whatever else her husband dreams about. After she returns to work, de Mélogue may spend her afternoons developing recipes and editing photos.
Spending time in de Mélogue’s airy kitchen, watching him stand on a broad, rolling island pounding fresh-harvested cranberries, chopping tomatoes for soupe au pistou, is like being in the audience while reading. His stories, interconnected in eloquent terms, have a practical quality, and his delight in them is palpable.
During his sermon using a chef’s knife—a family heirloom, he said, not of high quality—de Mélogue discussed his appreciation for French recipes. But he thinks no less about any other kitchen. He declared, “The food is perfect. There is no such thing as imperfection.” “If it tastes good, it tastes good.”
This is a creed he learned from his mother, a native of Marseilles.
Born in Chicago to French immigrants in 1964, de Millogue was raised to help his mother in the pursuit of good ingredients. She would put it on her bike and drive around dangerous parts of town to find sweet bread, or drive an hour to buy a baguette, de Melog recalls.
On one occasion, his mother spread the legs of the family’s “beautiful dining room table” to make it more suitable for a Moroccan dinner party. “She was brave,” said de Melog.
His father, a French professor at the University of Chicago, was somewhat more conservative, though equally enthusiastic about sharing his heritage.
In his late teens, de Mellogg was reading Gourmet magazine when an advertisement for the New England Culinary Institute in Montpellier sparked his interest. To advance, he simply had to write an essay.
“I didn’t know where in the world I would fit in,” de Melog recalled. He already had a camera and turned his bedroom into a darkroom, but the culinary profession called him in. Cooking school seemed like a match, even as NECI chef Michel LeBorgne tried to scare the young recruits with tales of 100-hour workdays and vacations spent away from family and friends.
De Mélogue joined NECI and fell heavily on Vermont landscapes. Pledging to return one day, he went west on his first outdoor internship, working with Chef Franklin Bigs at the popular Mariposa Café in Park City, Utah.
“It was the best job,” De Melog said of Biggs. “He was humble.” And Biggs endured with his young pupil – who was, at the time, de Mellogg admits, loudly and “an idiot” with a boisterous attitude, “Don’t take prisoners.” Biggs took young De Mélogue’s weaknesses step by step and gave him the opportunity to create specials, with the caveat that he accepts critical comments.
In 2002, after several parties at urban restaurants, country inns, and everything in between, de Mélogue helped open Pili Pili in Chicago. Provençal Place has been named one of the best new restaurants in the world by Food and wine praised in pages Gourmet And the in good health.
By then, though, de Mélogue was starting to get tired of the industry, as the culinary school teachers expected. The long hours were affecting his personal life and energy level. A few years after meeting Lisa, he decided to shift his focus to travel, writing, and photography.
In 2015, de Mélogue produced his first cookbook, Sun Kitchen: A ray of sunshine on your platewhich he frankly described as “terribly written and self-published”.
his next book, French Cooking for Beginners: 75+ Classic Recipes to Cook Like a Parisian, hired a publisher that identifies hot trends using analytics and finds writers who can pump books to meet demand. However, de Mélogue said, he was pleased with the result, which was published in 2020. “I love this book because I was going to tell stories,” he said.
The reader is unlikely to find out French cooking for beginners It was a product of the book factory. The volume features neat photography (not by de Mélogue), childhood stories, and simple, clear recipes for dishes like lentil salad, grilled chicken, and ratatouille, with plenty of helpful side tips.
Although the dishes in the book bear their French names – such as Potage Saint Germain and Hivernale – most are simple and seasonal. A wonderful “pot” is pea soup with pork. In the book, de Melog says the ethos of French cooking is adaptable and use what you have on hand, such as canned chickpeas, or water instead of stock. He writes: “Let your taste buds be the judge.”
On the day his book was published, de Melog and Lisa began searching for a home in Vermont. They wanted to provide stability for their son during his childhood years, although their long-term goal is to live on a modified school bus and travel the country in search of delicious meals.
De Melog said the house they eventually bought was larger and less land than they had hoped, but they got it at a fair price, despite the pandemic real estate bubble. Plus, he noted, the rolling kitchen island, which can be tucked away under the cabinet, was an important selling point.
Currently stable, de Mélogue pursues his passion projects while building his photography career. His book ideas include a recipe diary and a book on Provence foods, which will delve into the origin of each recipe. Someday, he’d like to give the same treatment to classic Vermont recipes.
De Mélogue sees his unwritten books as his legacy, just as the cookbooks he collects carry the legacy of their authors in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. “I will not invent a cure for a disease. I will not become a billionaire. The book is what will keep my soul alive after I am gone,” he said.
That and a few pounds of delicious, decadent super fat.
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