James Porter of Petite Maison in Scottsdale on Why He's Doing Modern French and the Biggest Challenge He's Faced in His Career
Lauren Saria Chef James Porter inside the recently renovated Petite Maison.
This is part one of our interview with chef James Porter of Petite Maison in Scottsdale. See part two here. In November, the restaurant underwent a reboot, changing its look, menu, and name to transition the restaurant into a "modern French" eatery.
At the relaunch event a month ago, we couldn't help feeling a twinge of disappointment at the loss of what was one of the Valley's only restaurants serving decadent, truly French fare. Though the new menu still retains a French influence, it's also become yet another menu with trendy dishes like pastrami, pho, and artisan Italian cheese. We decided to talk to Porter about why he decided to ditch his little French country house in favor of a more urban, international (and in some ways, ordinary) feel.
Don't forget to come back Tuesday for the second part of our interview, in which Porter tells us what he really thinks about Phoenix as a food town.
In mid-November, Petite Maison chef and owner James Porter and his wife, Wendy, announced they'd be shutting down their four-year old restaurant for a three-day whirlwind renovation that included changes to the menu, décor, and logo. (They did it all themselves, and the sleek, but still cozy, new design is a testament to just how smart these two business owners are.)
Since opening in 2009, the restaurant has built a reputation as a charming French eatery where diners looking for a romantic night out could find homey bistro cuisine, first-rate service, and a truly unique atmosphere. The changes have brought modernity into the mix with the introduction of global flavors to the menu that Porter says "explore all the places that have a deep French cooking history."
"It's edgy. It's fun. It's playful," Porter says. "It's in and out of the sandbox. It's an exploration of the French influence across the world: modern French."
You'll find dishes like duck breast pho with black truffles, rice noodles, star anise, and foie broth next to more inherently French food, such as chickpea cassoulet with duck confit, boudin noir, and kumquat gremolata. Then there are some interpretations of the classics, including croquet madam pappardelle with crispy lardon, organic egg, comte, and chervil pistu.
The changes, Porter says, come for a number of reasons -- most notably because the restaurant needed to keep up with changing tastes.
"People want something new," Porter says. "Times have changed. Do we drive cars from the '50s? No, we drive electric cars because they're cool and hip and different. Food is the same way. You have to keep up with the times. "