Growing up in the south of France, acclaimed restaurateur Laurent Halasz fondly and vividly recalls his mother Francine Halasz's frequent trips to the market, her meticulous approach to crafting each meal and her delicate and impeccable table settings.
"The memories I have are of setting the table, which is so beautifully set with flowers and the white napkin and the nice plateware," he said. "The art of welcoming and gathering people around the table are really fond memories."
In April, Laurent will recreate those memories with the opening of Francine, a French Mediterranean restaurant inspired by none other than his mother.
"Everything on my mother’s table was fresh, seasonal, and full of flavor, and that is exactly what Francine will offer our guests,” Laurent said.
Located in the luxury wing of Scottsdale Fashion Square alongside other renowned restaurants such as Nobu and Toca Madera, Francine will boast the look, feel and tastes of Laurent’s childhood home.
Originally, Francine was originally to be called Farmhouse, a Los Angeles-based farm-to-table restaurant of which Laurent is founder.
"I wanted something where you feel welcomed at someone's table. That's why I chose the name [of the restaurant] to be a name, to feel that you are in someone's home," explained Laurent, who is also founder of Fig & Olive.
Francine's menu will boast Laurent's new take on classic French Mediterranean cuisine.
Signature dishes include grilled octopus, zucchini terrine, salad nicoise, salmon carpaccio, spring pea ravioli, Grilled Mediterranean Branzino and Seared Duck a la Provencal.
"These dishes are very clean and full of flavor that I'm excited to serve," Laurent said. "The [Zucchini Terrine] is a very elegant dish, perfect for the summer season in Scottsdale."
And many of these dishes were inspired by Laurent's mother, whose recipes were also published his 2015 cookbook entitled "Fig & Olive: The Cuisine of the French Riviera."
"I've been blessed as a child; I grew up with a mother who went out of her way to market to pick the best vegetables of the season and come home and cook. I realized years after that she respected every ingredient's flavor and the cooking of the fish to be perfect, with the perfect balance of herbs and olive oil and spice," he said.
Laurent grew up in Mougins, the "birthplace of what is called the 'cuisine of the son' by a famous chef called Roger Vergé,” he said.
According to Laurent, Vergé self-revolutionized cuisine in southern France "to be centered around one vegetable and vegetable stock and the lighter cuisine.
"The dishes were basically the cuisine of my mother that she loved herself," he added.
Laurent will use only fresh, seasonal ingredients – as his mother did.
"When you go to the market in Cannes, you have all the produce that come from Provence, from Italy, from Spain, so you have a really abundance of incredible produce and you respect the season," he said.
For lunch and afternoon hours, patrons can choose from a selection of salads, carpaccio, pizza, and informal and shareable dishes, as well.
Laurent described the Francine space as soft and welcoming, boasting beige and blue hues, "two colors of Provence and the south of France."
The plant-filled 5,000 square-foot space will feature floor-to-ceiling windows, unique and local artwork, a rustic fireplace, and a marble bar.
Plus, patrons will spot "a lot of personal objects on the shelves," Laurent said, adding the intent is to have decor that's reminiscent of home.
Laurent has chosen his executive chef but said he and his team would disclose the chef's name at a later date. He did tease that the chef is an Arizona native.
"It's going to be a great combination with me with the French flavors and his Mediterranean flavors that he's good at," Laurent said. “He's a very nice fellow.”
Francine isn't the only French transplant to Scottsdale; Laurent will make the move from Los Angeles to Scottsdale, too.
"The construction is well on its way and doing well," he said of his soon-to-be Scottsdale home.
And following the opening of France in late April, Laurent said he plans to host cooking classes every three months.
He hopes to host the first class this summer.
"I'm really thrilled about this restaurant, and I love Scottsdale and this community. It's an amazing market as a restauranteur," Laurent said.