We caught up with Melissa Perello, chef and owner of Frances, to get her impressions on the 365th day of her restaurant's whirlwind first year. With recognition by James Beard, Michelin, and countless others, Frances instantaneously garnered city-wide demand despite its initial attempt to be a simple neighborhood gathering spot. As its next year begins, Perello and her team are welcoming a much deserved breather before tackling new projects.
It's officially Frances' one-year anniversary. What surprises did you encounter with this being your first independent venture?
I kind of knew what I was getting into, but daily, there are so many more challenges. It's amazing how many responsibilities there are when you're both the owner and chef—from the dishwasher breaking, to paint peeling off, fixing the toilet, making sure employees are happy, and even keeping the tenants above us happy...there always seems to be another challenge.
How did you react to receiving major accolades early on?
All the recognition wasn't expected, especially the Michelin star, which wasn't even a category we saw ourselves in. I honestly never anticipated Frances being as successful and well-received as it has been. I wanted it to be a quaint, casual neighborhood spot that was close to my home and fun to work at. I just wanted to get into the kitchen to cook every day.
What's in the hopper for year two at Frances?
Things, just now, seem to be falling into place. I think we'll take a couple months to take a breath, chill a little bit, but I would love to get more involved with a farm or someone who could grow things specifically for us, like at Manresa and Osteria Stellina. That's something I've already been toying with.
We've discussed opening an additional day, starting another spot, or maybe adding on to Frances, if possible. We've thought of applying for sidewalk seating, but I'm not certain that's possible.
What project are you excited about now?
I've always entertained the idea of doing Monday night dinners here at Frances. It would be different than what we do the other days and it would be prix fixe, possibly with special wine maker dinners, themed menus, and even guest chefs from other states. It would be a very special evening that we could do once or twice a month. [The Feast]