Mike Jetty’s talent, skill make Maison Lacour an elegant, romantic experience
By Rick Arnett
The Baton Rouge Journal
Mike Jetty’s approach to cooking is simple. “I love what I do. That passion has to translate into what we serve and the way we work.”
Jetty and his wife, Eva, refer to Maison Lacour’s collective staff as “family” something reinforced by the daily pre-opening “family meal” where all employees sit down together to eat, share stories and build a camaraderie that draws them together as a team.
“This is not a pyramid where I’m on top. It’s a linear thing. We’re all equally important.” Jetty is presently training a new sous chef, and while he values the enthusiam of his new charge, he insists on discipline. The result is a seamless dining experience set about with excellent timing and outstanding French cuisine.
Passing on what he has learned is something of a continuation of Jetty’s own experience. He began his apprenticeship in 1991 under the tutelage of Jacqueline Gréaud and her husband John, former owners of the converted 1920s farmhouse restaurant on North Harrell’s Ferry Road.
Gréaud’s expertise began at Paris’ prestigious Le Cordon Bleu, was honed to sharpness at great restaurants around the world and brought a razor’s edge with a Ph.D. from Sorbonne University in Paris before coming to America. “Her approach to teaching me began with discipline,” Jetty says.
“In the kitchen, she had a nearly zero tolerance policy. I started going out with Eva (her daughter), and she pulled me aside one day and said, ‘I don’t care who you’re dating. The minute you lose focus on what I’m trying to teach you, you’re out of here.’ That got my attention!”
Jetty learned his lessons well. After several years under Gréauds watchful eye, he took on more responsibility in the kitchen as she slowly relinquished control of the restaurant.
When longtime Baton Rouge Advocate food writer Betty Eppes wrote a glowing review after a visit to the restaurant, Jetty was greeted with a copy of the article and Gréaud’s hand scrawled note: “Congratulations, Chef!” Jetty knew then that he had the talent and skill Gréaud expected of him.
Not long after, he married Eva and they purchased Maison Lacour from his new in-laws. He absorbed Gréaud’s philosophical attitude in the kitchen.
This kind of cooking is an art, it takes dedication, discipline and a sincere effort to make every single plate an excellent offering to whomever is being served.
The meal we enjoyed began with champignons, an earthy combination of morel, shitake and Portobello mushrooms sautéed in butter with a touch of wine- simple and unadulterated in preparation, the true tastes and textures of each variety fully came through. The Pâté Maison was a true country French pâté of duck (with out liver) seasoned with green peppercorns and cognac accompanied by cornichons and a carrot rose. The soup of the day was light but delightful shrimp and lump crabmeat with a saffron, carrot and onion broth.
The house salad is a combination of fresh greens and lettuces slashed with a tangy French vinaigrette that is neither overpowering nor too sweet it came bedecked with a heart-shaped beet on top as a charming accoutrement.
The entrées were even more impressive. The rack of lamb was beautiful on the plate, sliced, splayed out in an arc and accompanied by a mustard sauce that was magnificent. The Crevettes Grillées was a combination of grilled jumbo shrimp and ratatouille. The eggplant was soft and mellow, the other vegetables “al dente” and the herbs an enhancement without overpowering the natural flavor of all.
The dessert list is amazing, from ice creams and sorbets, chocolate mousee and white chocolate bread pudding to house specials like Crème Catalane (a perfect crème brûlée) and Crêpes Suzette flamed with Grand Marnier and Cognac. We enjoyed a fantastic Tarte Tatin, Jetty’s version of classic caramel apple upside tart, served hot, and a lemon soufflé that was light and delicious.
The intimacy of the layout of five small dining spaces, French art on the walls, lovely table settings, fireplaces and soft French music in the background combine to make the dining experience that is becoming more and more a rarity in a fast-paced world.
"This kind of cooking is an art, it takes dedication, discipline and a sincere effort to make every single plate an excellent offering to whomever is being served."