Neither would look out of place on the red carpet.
Chef/owners Jean-Francis and Alessandra Quaglia are healthy proof of the merits of a good start to the day and an even healthier appetite for good living.
He from Marseilles, France and she from Toronto, Ont., their paths crossed unsurprisingly in a kitchen, in the idyllic setting of Nice’s acclaimed Hotel Negresco.
Ten years ago, they opened their second Vancouver restaurant, Provence Marinaside, under the spotlight and scrutiny of Food Network’s Opening Soon; they’ve been entertaining company since in more ways than one.
Morning, noon and night: they’ve lost none of their shine and only garnered further accolades and appearances en route. The duo is presently on deck to host a culinary cruise to the Caribbean with Holland-America in April.
As parents of two and co-owners of Vancouver’s award-winning French restaurants, Provence and Provence Marinaside, the pair’s excellence on the plate is exceeded perhaps only by their endurance. Besides raising a pair of children, Chef Jean-Francis has his BMW GS Endura motorcycle and budding black belt in counselling, while Alessandra celebrates salsa on a competitive level and has a dance studio at home. Yoga works wonders for both.
“It keeps me grounded, healthy and flexible for when I have to go up into the ceiling and fix something in the kitchen,” Jean-Francis said.
As per the three-year counselling program in which he is immersed, it pays similar dividends. “I refuse to go through life and not enjoy myself, but there are things that frustrate, so we all need to find ways to make it work smoothly.”
Such as breakfast?
Sharing a morning in the kitchen with Indulge, Alessandra stirring the polenta, Jean-Francis putting his touch to an omelette, the ritual of the morning meal becomes apparent.
On any given morning, breakfast is in full swing in the Quaglia kitchen.
“Actually, breakfast is a funny thing. We love breakfast. Still, after 10 years, people still don’t know that we serve breakfast,” said Jean-Francis. Save for weekends and holidays, which bring the brunch crowd like clockwork, breakfast is perhaps the only time you will find a quiet corner to call your own at Provence Marinaside.
Then there is understandable industry attitude. He explains, “Not everyone wants to wake up at 5 a.m. to do the prep work. Some chefs see it as a downgrade from dinner. We like to show how you can be creative and take real pride in breakfast.”
That pride shows on both the faces in the kitchen and where it counts most, on the menu, where the house-styled croque benedict vies with the croissant shrimp benedict and ham and cheese omelette for most favoured. Naturally, breakfast takes on a lighter note as well, with a steady flow of special requests to be accommodated, ranging from the dietary to the die-hard health nuts who have come to crave Jean-Francis’ egg white omelettes.
“We have plenty of healthy options and don’t mind making something up at all, but people really love our take on the croque monsieur benedict-style and, no, that’s not really too healthy,” admits Jean-Francis.
“Healthy is just fresh and sensible. Eat what you love unless what you love is major processed food,” said Alessandra.
At home, the menu’s bend towards healthy is more obvious.
“It gets harder to set aside the time as the kids get older, especially on the weekdays, but breakfast doesn’t have to be complex. You can come to the restaurant for that,” said Alessandra with a grin. “It just needs to be there as both a start and anchor for the day.”
Her own secret recipe for a fresh start? A cold glass of orange juice swirled with honey and lavender.