Pointing to the paintings adorning the walls of his comfortable, tidy, three-year-old restaurant in Far North Dallas, Jean-Marie Cadot explains they are the work of his mother – his voice betraying no small amount of pride in the fact. When asked if he inherited the talent, the responds by shaking his head no.
“But,” he says after a few seconds, “Food can be art, too.”
And if Cadot’s culinary skills are an inherited trait, it would surprise exactly nobody.
A mere 150 years or so before his birth, Cadot’s great-great grandfather opened the restaurant Boeuf a la Mode in Paris. His father, and grandfather, and his father before him were all bakers – an occupation that goes back to 1758 for the Cadot family. His family runs two other restaurants – one in Paris, one in New York. Jean-Marie Cadot received his first cookbook when he was nine. That’s the same year he roasted his first chicken.
The walls at Cadot Restaurant illustrate Jean-Marie’s mother’s artistic ability. The dishes illustrate his own.
A graduate of two Parisian cooking schools, Ferrandi Cooking School and Grand Moulins de Paris Baking and Pastry School, Jean-Marie has worked in restaurants from Paris to New York, in roles from Pastry Chef to Sous Chef to Executive Chef. He was the first Executive Chef at Lavendou, the acclaimed French restaurant on Preston Road (just down the way from Cadot) and helped to open several other area restaurants. If food is Jean-Marie’s form of art, he’s been more prolific than Picasso, and at Cadot restaurant, he wants to put his combined experience into making the entire meal a masterpiece.
“The experience here should reflect some of Paris, New York and Dallas,” says Jean-Marie with an unmistakeable French lilt. “It is a French restaurant, with good serve and good food, but a restaurant that people can come to without having to spend 100 dollars per person.”
While there are menu selections – not to mention the beverage – options at Cadot that certainly make exceeding the century mark feasable, it’s clear that Jean-Marie has made it a point to achieve a level of neighborhood accessibility. The dinner menu features entrees such as coq au vin and steak with shallots and bordelaise for under $25, and the lunch menu facilitates a fine mid-day meal for under $20. For those looking for a more indulgent dining experience, however, the rack of lamb, roasted duck or filet mignon options are just a few of the items that may tickle their fancy. Foie gras, caviar and seasonal truffle and morel dishes (among other delicacies) can also be easily found at Cadot. And, of course, there are the snails.
“I am trying to bring the French dining experience to Dallas – trying to make people feel as if they are dining in France,” he says. “And for somebody who’s never been to France, or had the dish before, I would say they should try l’escargot – people always seem intrigued by it.”
Escargot – Burgundy snails cooked in a garlic cream sauce – may be an unusual dish to many American palates, but it’s not alone on Cadot’s menu as a dish that highlights an ingredient of otherwise humble origins; there’s also the crispy sweetbreads with butternut squash, staw potatoes and madiera demiglace and the braised short ribs with potatoes mousseline.
And while Cadot’s approach is classical French, his surroundings and experience have inspired inclusion of regional aspects to his dishes. The tuna tartare, for instance, includes avocados, and his apricot ravioli dessert also features Texas goat cheese. It’s a diverse menu that – with the atmosphere and location – Jean-Marie hopes will help Cadot garner an universal appeal not typical of restaurants that offer foie gras and caviar.
“Having worked in all the places that I did, I experienced many different sorts of clientele, and here, as a neighborhood restaurant, we have a lot of families with kids, teenagers and also a lot of single clients who are 20 and up. All of them want a nice lunch or dinner, but not only that, they come here for the service, the ambiance – everything,” says Jean-Marie. “We want every one of them to feel at home, whether they’re wearing a tuxedo or they’re dressed casually.”
What becomes clear as Jean-Marie explains his perspective, is that three years after opening, he hopes that Cadot will grow from a restaurant with a neighborhood focus to a Dallas dining destination. He mentions French travelers and expats who come to Cadot for a taste of home, and of Dallas’ French restaurant scene as a whole. Though it’s well outside any of the growing hotspots to the South, its unique qualities for those seeking a truly enjoyable meal will find the trip worth the effort.
“When we opened, we wanted to make sure we were running smoothly – from the service to the kitchen, it takes a long time to get it all exactly right. Now that it’s been three years, we are starting to get more comfortable with providing the experience we expect to provide,” Jean-Marie says. “People need to come try it – just come to the restaurant with the red awning at Preston and Frankfurt. We’ve had so many people tell us that they didn’t know how much they would enjoy it, and that they wished they had come before. They can come here, have a good meal with good service, and just relax. There’s an appreciation for that.”
Whatever your take on food as form or function, there’s no denying this: quality art should always be appreciated.