BRETTON WOODS — Preparing food for the New Hampshire Lodging & Restaurant Associiation, which held its recent annual meeting at the Omni Mountain Washington Resort, might seem a tall order.
But not to the resort's renowned Executive Chef Jacky Francois, who spends 70-80 hours a week at the 200-room resort making sure every morsel of the delicious food he serves to guests is perfect.
As his name might imply, the chef comes from France. And although he moved to this country 38 years ago, Francois still speaks with a lilting French accent as he instructs his junior staff members.
Francois doesn't want the culinary tradition to die out. “I have been here at the resort for five years and love to mentor new people," he says. "Training, showing and teaching are my passion.”
Francois has 30 years' experience as a chef. Growing up in the northeast (Alsatian) region of France, his father was a colonel in the French army and his mom was his cooking mentor, teaching him to keep their meals simple yet tasty. He completed his culinary training at the esteemed Gerardmer Culinary School.
After his schooling ended, he decided to come to the States, where he worked tirelessly in multiple locations, perfecting his skills. For example, he had worked at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh for 17 years (from 1997-2014).
Five years ago, he decided that the Omni Mount Washington Resort would be a great fit for him to showcase his cooking skills. Today, he and his wife, Lisa, make their home in Franconia.
Using fresh local ingredients is a must for the chef.
“We source a lot of local food from New England, with Massachusetts giving us our sea scallops and salmon. Our cheese is from Vermont, and our poultry and maple syrup are from New Hampshire,” said Francois.
The Omni Mountain Washington Resort can feed hundreds of guests in a single day. But Chef Francois tackles this arduous task effortlessly. His calm and quiet demeanor permeates throughout the kitchen as he oversees 90 cooks and sous chefs.
His positive outlook helps. “I start every day saying it is going to be a great day," Francois says. "Working at this resort opens our brains since there are so many requests with changes and food allergies, so the daily challenge is to see a smile on my guests' faces, and train my staff to excellence."
As Chef Francois prepares so many meals, he keeps it simple by using cast-iron pans, copper pans, sharp knives and adding a slow cooker for stews.
"If you want to make a great sauce, you need a good stock, which can take anywhere from 16-18 hours to make,” according to Francois.
Some of his favorite dishes are braised veal shank, and short ribs with onions, carrots, potatoes and leeks.