Vancouver, B.C.'s Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House is legendary. Any restaurant that can maintain an award-winning reputation for three decades has it figured out! But it isn’t just the shining reviews or the impeccably crafted dishes coming out of the kitchen that entice people from all over the world, it’s more about the smile that greets you when you walk through its iconic doors. The charming maître d' at Joe Fortes, for 26 years, Frenchy is at the core of their refined, exquisite hospitality. He shares with us what sets the restaurant (now in its 32nd year) apart and how he likes to kick back when he isn’t knocking your socks off.
How do you want people to feel when they visit Joe Fortes?
Happy. It’s all about providing an experience that touches all of the senses. Food and wine is an emotional business; people won’t remember what they ate years down the road, but they will remember how they felt.
What sets you apart from other maître d's?
We’re a hands-on business, we don’t just walk around and look good. We work alongside our staff and support them: bussing tables, pouring wine, whatever needs to be done to make service run smoothly.
What do you love most about your job?
I love making someone’s day. People want to feel like they belong, like they’re part of the social tissue. We play a part in the personal interactions, conversations, and occasions that go on in our restaurant. So, we can really influence how people feel when they’re here and when they leave. I can turn anyone’s day around.
What was running through your head when you were inducted into the B.C. Restaurant hall of fame in 2007?
It was just so humbling. There have been so many incredible people before and after that have contributed to making the Vancouver restaurant scene what it is today. It’s so diverse now because of all their hard work. It is just very humbling to be part of that list.
You see lots of celebrities at the restaurant. Is there one person in particular who you’d like to woo?
I have met a lot of amazing people, but Leslie Nielsen was a very special friend, he was a prince among men. But if I had to choose someone I haven’t already met? Tom Cruise. He always comes in after we close and I miss him every time.
Let’s pretend the restaurant is a Broadway production. What role would you play? The director? Producer? Lead actor?
Oh, I’d be the circus master, the director. The head clown!
What's the most memorable dish that you've had?
Sweetbreads at Le Crocodile. They were served in a brandy cream sauce with morel mushrooms. It was a life-changing dish.
What is your least favourite food?
I don’t love spicy food. I like to taste the food, all of the flavours. I can’t do that when my mouth is on fire.
Where will you travel next?
Back to Paris. The sky is bluer in Paris. The food is better than anywhere else in the world. It is just a magical place.
What does a day off in the life of Frenchy look like? How do you like to unwind?
Wake up late! I love starting my day with a late breakfast, then go shopping for dinner, and watch a movie with my wife. I’ve also become a bird watcher; I have an incredible view of the bay and its eagle season.