Kevin Lentz of French Grocery on Old World Wines and The IPA Trend
This is part two of our interview with Kevin Lentz, owner of Phoenix's French Grocery. Yesterday he told us about how he dreamed of opening a cottage bistro in New Orleans - and how that dream led him to French Grocery. Today, we learn about how he fell in love with the restaurant business and get his first impression of Phoenix as a restaurant town. If you missed yesterday's portion of the interview, you can go back and read it here.
Lauren Saria Kevin Lentz of French Grocery
See also: 7 Best Gelato Shops in Metro Phoenix
The luxury of doing things right is one of the upsides of French Grocery's pretty unique business model, Lentz says. Unlike in a traditional restaurant setting where the kitchen has to focus on efficiency to get through a busy dinner service, Lentz can take the time to focus on quality above all else.
Lentz's passion for food that's rooted in the French classics isn't so surprising when you learn that most of his experience in a restaurant kitchen came from working at an upscale Creole restaurant in New Orleans. It's since closed; the lakefront building was lost in Hurricane Katrina.
"The few people I knew who were working in restaurants [in college] were in the front of the house, because that's where all the money is," he says. "But I was just not interested in that, so I did something really stupid and went to work for minimum wage [in the kitchen]."
He stared as a dishwasher, though he only held that position for a couple days before a prep cook didn't show up for work. He got promoted and would stay there for the next three years. He even took a year off of school at Tulane to learn the ins and outs of the business from his colleagues, some of who were classically trained culinary school grads. When he finished graduate school the lure of weekends off and regular hours landed him at a comfortable corporate-type gig, but "there was always that bug biting me at the back of the neck," he says. He knew he belonged in food.
And it's not just the ability to work with food that he loves about French Grocery. Lentz, a self-described introvert, sees his work as "an opportunity to get to know people, one at a time." The best way to get him chatting, if you want to know, might be to ask for his help selecting a bottle of wine.