Summit County locals open French-inspired bistro on Breckenridge Main St.
A food-loving local couple hopes their new restaurant will become a community hot spot that decodes and demystifies traditional French dining.
Jaci and Stéphane Ohayon held a small opening for friends and family for Belle V., their new “French-inspired” bistro tucked into the La Cima Mall on Main Street in Breckenridge. The couple said that the small and intimate aperitif was more their style.
“We quietly turned on our open sign on Saturday just to kind of see, and filter people in,” Jaci said.
Food is something the Ohayon family lives and breathes. Jaci Ohayon, who has a background in law, also writes children’s books on healthy eating. The second “Food Dancer” book, a series about a little girl eating food from around the world, is due out later this month. Her husband, Stéphane, is the food and beverage director for Keystone Resorts. It’s a job he will continue working during the day, before coming to the restaurant at night.
For them, the restaurant is about getting people to experience a new kind of food. Jaci said that they opted for small plates so that people could try a wider variety of dishes. They are also hoping to avoid some of the stereotypes that follow the cuisine.
“The whole idea behind our restaurant is that people typically think of a French restaurant and you have to wear the right clothes, and you have to sit up straight and you have to use the right fork, and you have to have the proper manners and etiquette,” Jaci said. “We wanted to take that away. We are going to serve this delicious food, but come and eat it how you want to.”
The Ohayons came to Summit nearly two and a half years ago when Stéphane took the job at Keystone. The self-described transient pair had spent the last several years moving around from state to state, even spending time in Stéphane’s native home of France. Jaci said that her 8-year-old son Maxem has already lived in six different places.
She added that they usually only stay in a place for two years, but that the community in Summit County made them want to settle down, a decision that solidified when the restaurant opened.
“Buying a small business is a pretty radical way to go,” Stéphane said.
The pair put the restaurant together themselves, buying tables and décor items from local thrift stores and off of Craigslist.
FOOD FOR LIFE
Stéphane grew up in southern France, a region known for its cultural obsession with food and wine. Stéphane’s culinary education was overseen by his now 102-year-old grandmother, who he calls Manou. Many of Belle V.’s dishes come from her handwritten cookbook.
“She was constantly in the kitchen, she had six kids, who in turn had us,” he said. “Food has always brought us to the table.”
For Jaci, food was not a powerful force in her life until she met Stéphane, who introduced her to things she had never tried before. Maxem, and their 6-year-old daughter Eleeana, grew up with the exotic tastes of escargot and sushi, flavors they added to the children’s menu at Belle V.
“It’s funny for them to grow up eating this way, they just don’t understand why anybody would think that frog legs are disgusting,” Jaci said.
While nutritious meals at home are something the Ohayons have always valued, the pair was surprised when they saw meal plans at their children’s local school.
Part of it came from the culture shock of coming from Paris, where schools give students more than an hour to eat family-style meals.
“Here, we’re like, ‘We’ll do something fast and quick. Get the kids fed,’” Jaci said.
They started working with the school to implement a more nutritional program that moves away from processed foods. The work is slow going, but Jaci said they have made some progress such as getting the schools to add a second menu option.
Jaci’s future hope for the restaurant is to have nutritional cooking classes for kids.
“We care about this … enough to write the book, to work with 300 parents, to work with the school district, to open a restaurant,” Jaci said. “This is what we love, this is what we do.”
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