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Tuesday - Saturday

From 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm

Limited Seating

Text Reservation Requests (225) 333-7533

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"He recalled that the first thing she taught him was to know your ingredients: “Use good ingredients. Respect them. Let them speak for themselves.”"

John & Chef Jackie Gréaud
Chef Michael & Eva Jetty

The Legacy of Chef Jaqueline Gréaud

JUNE 25, 2024

Country Roads Magazine


Photography by Lucie Monk Carter

Link to Online Article:

Maison Lacour is the only “true” French restaurant in Baton Rouge. The family-run establishment has been serving classic French cuisine in a petite house on North Harrell’s Ferry Road for nearly forty years. While traditional French dishes are on the menus of such grand dames as Antoine’s, Galatoire’s, and Arnaud’s, even these bear the heavy influence of Louisiana’s regionally-specific Creole and Cajun cuisines. Maison Lacour is one of the few institutions in the state to distinguish itself with a veritable Parisian French menu. 

On my recent visit, proprietor Eva Jetty greeted me and my husband with her usual “Bonsoir,” pronounced in her endearing French accent as she ushered us to our table. There are three dining rooms in the quaint farmhouse. Ours had a fireplace. Imbued with rustic charm, the rooms are arranged with intimacy in mind and decorated with lattice-back French country chairs, assorted knickknacks, and posters collected by Eva on the couple’s trips to Paris. French music compliments the mood. 

Eva suggested that we begin our meal with a customary French aperitif, a drink to stimulate the appetite. My husband tried the Lillet Blanc, a type of French wine fortified with citrus liquors, while I had a festive Paris-St. Germain, a blend of St. Germain, gin, and lemon topped with champagne. Eva brought us warm bread and butter while we perused the menu. To guarantee expert timing, guests are asked to place their order all at once, a difficult feat for me with so many enticing choices.

Each course is perfectly spaced, starting with a simple-yet-nicely appointed house salad tossed in their signature dressing. The tangy French vinaigrette is so popular that bottles are available for purchase, an opportunity my husband and I rarely miss. For us, soup generally follows the salad. I had a tough time deciding between the Bisque á l’Orange, a creamy crawfish bisque lightly scented with orange, and the rich seafood broth with crabmeat and shrimp named Soupe St. Tropez. In the end, we opted for the Soupe Jacqueline, a velouté of brie cheese with crab meat and asparagus named in honor of Eva’s mother, Chef Jacqueline Gréaud, who opened Maison Lacour with her husband John on June 6, 1986. 

Jacqueline's story goes back to an early childhood in Vietnam when it was still a French colony. Amidst the growing resistance against colonial rule, her parents sent her to Paris in 1946 when she was eight years old. There, she lived and was educated in a convent. When she was ten, her father gave her a comprehensive French cookbook, the Larousse Gastronomique. During summers, she attended classes at the prestigious French haute culinary school Le Cordon Bleu.  

Years later, this training would prove useful to Jacqueline when she was entertaining her husband’s business associates in the French Congo and the Côte d’Ivoire in Africa. “There were no grocery stores in the jungle,” said Eva. Food deliveries came by boat or airplane. To feed her guests and family, Jacqueline raised chickens and even built an oven so she could bake bread. They later moved to Thailand—where she opened a French restaurant in Bangkok called  Le Metro—then Singapore for a time, and then back to South Vietnam, where her marriage came to an end. Soon after, she met John Gréaud and the two of them went to Paris to be wed. 

After John retired from the United States Air Force, they settled, with young Eva and her sister, in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, and opened two restaurants, one French and one Chinese. Eventually, though, John wished to return to his roots in Baton Rouge. 

After we finished the soup, Eva rewarded us with our appetizer, the archetypal French delicacy known as escargot, and another loaf of warm, crusty bread. Baked in a garlic butter sauce, the snails were served in six individual cups (as opposed to the more traditional tongs; this way, they were much easier to eat). My husband relayed his favorite snail joke while Eva opened a bottle of Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Rosé. While considering how the traditional French dish later influenced a New Orleans chef (Jules Alciatore at Antoine’s) to create Oysters Rockefeller at the end of the 19th century—I asked Eva if Louisiana’s culinary penchants for Creole and Cajun food had any influence on her mother’s French sensibilities. 

She replied, “She didn’t pay any attention [to it].” 

When Maison Lacour opened in the mid-1980s, Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole culinary scene was just starting to make a name for itself around the world. On LPB television, Justin Wilson was exclaiming “I gar-on-tee!” on his Louisiana Cookin’ show and John Folse was starting his enterprise at Lafitte’s Landing in Donaldsonville. Meanwhile in New Orleans, Paul Prudhomme left Commander’s Palace to open K-Paul’s Kitchen, where the quintessentially “Cajun” dishes of Blackened Redfish and Turducken were born. The young chef who took Prudhomme’s place at Commander’s was none other than Emeril Lagasse, who then opened Emeril’s in 1990. The few women chefs on the scene included Susan Spicer, who opened Bayona that same year, and “The Queen of Creole Cuisine '' Leah Chase—who was already a long timer at Dookey Chase's Restaurant. 

Gréaud, working from her cottage in Baton Rouge, was less well known than these culinary giants. But she was doing something distinct from the Cajun/Creole renaissance—she was introducing people to the highly refined ancestor of Louisiana’s increasingly popular indigenous cuisines. Classic French cuisine evolved from haute cuisine, an earlier style of cooking characterized by its meticulous preparation, elaborate presentation, and the use of high-quality and often difficult-to-obtain ingredients. Simpler but retaining the elegance of its predecessor, Classic French cuisine relies on fresh, locally sourced ingredients—much like its Cajun and Creole relatives. Yet, anyone who has ever tried to follow a recipe by Julia Child, the chef that introduced French cooking into American kitchens, knows Classic French cuisine requires much rigor, practice, and patience to turn out perfect soufflés and sauces like velouté and béchamel. Jacqueline mastered this art and remained true to the culinary traditions she was taught, following classic recipes that had been around for centuries. 

As a frequenter of Maison Lacour, some of my favorite menu items include the Carré d’Agneau, a baked New Zealand rack of lamb, and the Saumon Grillé, broiled salmon with mustard sauce. A perennial favorite is the Flounder en Papillote—which literally means "enveloped in paper,” a cooking method popular in France since the 17th century. Served in a tangy, light cream sauce, the dish recalls Antoine’s Pompano en Papillote, created by Chef Alciatore in honor of the French brothers who developed the first paper hot air balloons. On this particular visit, my husband selected the Côte de Veau, a well-sized veal chop, flambéed in cognac and served with sautéed mushrooms in a delectable cream sauce. I opted for the Canard du Chef. The slices of broiled marinated duck breast were deliciously tender, and the raspberry sauce added just the right touch of sweetness. The entrées are always elegantly presented, accompanied by an array of fresh green beans or asparagus spears, one small boiled potato, and a bright orange carrot slice, cut into a flower shape. 

When it comes to the pièce de résistance, the desserts are fabulous. This time there were several chocolate selections: Mousse au Chocolate, Gâteau au Chocolate, white chocolate bread pudding, and Eva’s Chocolate Martini. For something lighter, we usually go for the Crème Catalane (Maison Lacour’s Crème Brulée). On this occasion, we closed our meal with a satisfying Café Noisette, a French style of espresso with hint of cream, spiked with Nocello, a walnut liqueur.  

It has been more than twenty years since Chef Jacqueline retired, but her son-in-law Chef Michael Jetty says, “Jackie is with me every day on my shoulder.” Hailing from Michigan, Michael moved to Baton Rouge as an adolescent. He dabbled in the local restaurant industry and was a regular customer at Maison Lacour. Intrigued by the French food, he sought out Gréaud. He recalled, “I knocked on the back door [in 1991] and begged her [to take me on as an apprentice].” He trained under her for thirteen years, falling in love and marrying her daughter Eva along the way. He knew he’d finally made rank when one day, unexpectedly, Jacqueline told him, ‘Good job, Chef!” 

He recalled that the first thing she taught him was to know your ingredients: “Use good ingredients. Respect them. Let them speak for themselves.” Michael acknowledged that in Louisiana we are fortunate to have many good local ingredients. He has access, for instance, to fresh crawfish, which are also served in France (écrivisse). Jacqueline also insisted on the importance of knowing your audience: “No one asks you if you like it. You are cooking for the people who are paying you.” She taught him how to be a steward of classic French cuisine, following recipes commonly recognized on the streets of Paris and in any French village: “Put away your ego. Who are you to change what has stood the test of time?” Michael declared Jacqueline to be the most interesting and smartest person he’d ever met. “We spent long days in the kitchen prepping, and she could talk about anything on any subject,” he said. “I learned a lot of life education from her.” 

Jacqueline remains an important part of Maison Lacour’s story. As Michael put it, “It is most humbling to serve the grown children, and their children, of our founding customers and former staff members.” He said he and Eva never take their work for granted. “We stand behind what we do, fiercely.” 

Hours at Maison Lacour are 5:30 pm–7 pm Tuesday–Saturday. Reservations may be made by texting 225-333-7533 a week or more in advance. Cash or check only.

Maison Lacour French Restaurant
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