Who's in the Kitchen
Who's in the Kitchen
The charm of Baton Rouge's classic French restaurant.
By Lee Feinswog
Theirs is an unseen subculture. A kitchen staff’s work is mostly underappreciated and rarely fully understood. Their domain is the “back of the house”—the stifling, crowded and frenetic kitchens at popular restaurants. These crews work from the crack of dawn until the wee hours. From gourmet establishment to greasy spoon, they prepare the familiar foods that put Baton Rouge restaurants on the map or dream up new, innovative dishes to delight and surprise us.
Some of these professionals are self-taught, while others are the products of rigorous culinary programs. Whether they’re hard-working career cooks or demanding culinary innovators, they share pride in their work and the sense of accomplishment that comes only with our dining satisfaction.
These are a few of the faces behind the food and some of the culinary innovators who make Baton Rouge taste so good.
The Chef: Michael Jetty, Maison Lacour
Michael Jetty, 45, came to the restaurant to work and learn under French chef Jacqueline Greaud. He not only stuck around, he married her daughter Eva, and together they now run the restaurant located in a house on North Harrell’s Ferry Road. The small, intimate spot is a Mecca for French cuisine.
“Even in college, when everyone went out and the bars closed, I would swing by the grocery store and buy food and make foods,” Jetty says. “It’s always what I wanted to do.”
Jetty grew up in Michigan, but in 1976 his father took a job at LSU. Jetty graduated from Baton Rouge High and attended LSU, “but I realized at the midnight hour I didn’t want to be an accountant. It did dawn on me that I wanted to get into the restaurant business.”
He owned an Italian restaurant in downtown Baton Rouge called Café Presto, “but I was passing myself in the morning as I was going home at night.”
Which brought him to Maison Lacour. He told Chef Greaud, “I’ll do anything you want if you take me on as an apprentice.” Everyone got more than they bargained for.
Greaud eventually became his mother-in-law, but she made it clear that regardless of who Jetty was dating, his kitchen standards were never to suffer.
“It wasn’t handed to me,” Jetty says.
Now he has the restaurant, too.
“It sounds passé, but I love sautéing. I love working my line. It’s the most fun thing I do. It’s not always easy; it’s extraordinarily pressure-filled at times, but I dig that.”
Signature Dish: Canard aux framboises (duck with raspberries)
Cointreau-marinated duck breast is sautéed in its own rendered duck fat and broiler-roasted to the perfect temperature. Served thinly sliced with fresh seasonal vegetables, it’s topped with raspberries, and with a delicious homemade raspberry demi-glace drizzled tableside.
“Even in college, when everyone went out and the bars closed, I would swing by the grocery store and buy food and make foods,” Jetty says.
“It’s always what I wanted to do.”