For Chef Barry Francois (foodbyfrancois.com) cooking should be as easy as it sounds. He wants to share his knowledge of food and cooking with the general public in fun ways. His non-profit, Queen City Mobile Market — which received $12,500 in funding from SHAPE Charlotte, a business starter competition, in 2012 — was started with the purpose of supplying fresh veggies, meals and cooking demos to several locations in Charlotte.
He describes his cooking style as an eclectic comfort, which is something to marinate on while salivating over quirky options like grilled watermelon steak. Known for catering and pop-up dining experiences like Kluck 'N' Moo, a late-night delivery service providing Southern food to folks staying in Uptown hotels during CIAA and the ongoing Chef to Clef — featuring appetizers, wine and live jazz brought to your home — Francois also offers couture beginners to advanced level classes that can be conducted in groups or one-on-one. These focus on everything from cooking basics like knife skills, seasonings and oils, and cooking meats to preparing meals for the whole week, grilling out and entertaining for large parties. From help in the kitchen to help in dining room, Francois aims to keep the bellies and ears full.
Creative Loafing: Tell me about the mission behind Queen City Mobile Market and your food philosophy?
Barry Francois: My whole mission with Queen City Mobile Market was to spread the knowledge of food. When I started doing the catering and personal chef events, I would go to people's houses and see that people didn't have any real food. People normally tend to eat good only on special occasions and I think people need to eat good all the time. I try to make food accessible.
In the past you did a class that taught folks how to make a grilled watermelon steak. Can you tell me about that?
People always look for a menu on my website, but I do everything custom. There are a lot of dietary restrictions, so if you don't learn different techniques and things, you'll loose business. I was working at The Olive Tap in Ballantyne and I was doing tastings with different balsamic vinegars with different things, so I tried marinating watermelon in balsamic vinegar. It was a raspberry balsamic vinegar that I marinated it in and then I put it on the hot, cast-iron grill and because of all the sugars the outside became like a crust and the inside was very juicy like a watermelon, so I had that as my steak and put it on top of potatoes and they loved it.
How did the idea for Chef to Clef come about?
We realized that Saturday nights in Charlotte are pretty much one of the official nights for partying and Sunday is more about getting ready for the week. So, we [musician Harvey Cummings II] thought, "What if we just bring entertainment to people's homes?" We figured out how long it would take to do four-courses and have music and decided on 90 minutes. We did a sample before we actually put it online [as a Living Social deal] and people enjoyed it. Cummings and I actually went to school together, but we didn't really talk then. He was in a band and I was on the football team, but now we do great business together.