A small place in the countryside | Food
La Bécasse thrives with French dishes
By Geri Dietze | May 14, 2022
At La Bécasse in Maple City, French country cuisine is the star, purpose which keeps chef Guillaume Hazaël-Massieux in his kitchen and fills the dining room with satisfied customers.
La Bécasse, under different owners and names, has been serving French cuisine for over 40 years, with chef Guillaume and his wife Brooke taking over in 2005 from the previous owners. The restaurant was previously known as Woodcock, and the French translation of the bird’s name is the woodcock.
“The woodcock is very representative of the tradition of hunting in Europe”, explains chef Guillaume. “It is known for its purple meat, which is very earthy and red, and for the quality of its flesh.” (Three quarters of the woodcock’s diet is made up of protein-rich earthworms, hence the color. The other quarter comes from other crawling things.) The name La Bécasse is found on restaurants in France, in Belgium and the United Kingdom, and of Franco-Japanese renown. chef Yoshinori Shibuya even has his own version in Osaka.
Close your eyes and think of France
French comfort food is best enjoyed in a traditional setting, with the laid-back vibe and authenticity of rural France, where serendipity can lead to the perfect meal. La Bécasse captures that spirit: a neat exterior, with no frills except for the blue and red trim of the French tricolor and flowery planters. Inside, tables have white linens, simple table settings, and small floral arrangements. The dining room can comfortably accommodate 40-45 people and a recently expanded outdoor terrace can accommodate up to 40 guests. (New this year on the terrace: 5 to 7 La Bécasse, called Apéro, abbreviation of aperitif.)
Everything at La Bécasse is fresh and homemade. Ingredients and supplies—mostly locally sourced and organically grown—showcase the rich and diverse whole-foods movement for which Northern Michigan is so well known. You’ll find greens, herbs, vegetables, flowers, berries, aged cheeses, home-grown beef, pork and poultry, all processed into a European delicacy. “I base my cooking on French methods and styles, sauces, broths and technical methods,” explains chef Guillaume, “but I also organize according to what I have, what is available and of what the local palate likes.”
The carefully curated menu is representative but not overwhelming, offering the best of French country cooking, from centuries-old beef bourguignon, buttery snail from Burgundy and rich, textured country pâté to dishes that evoke the international experience of the chief.
Two customer favorites on the menu are the Duo de canard (pan-fried duck breast, confit duck leg and sweet potato gratin, with a vanilla demi-glace) and the Noisettes de veau, with a cream sauce mushrooms and a potato gratin. Experienced diners know that dessert is a must: hot chocolate cake and profiteroles, both with Belgian chocolate sauce, are the best choices.
In addition to full bar service, diners can choose from more than 250 wine selections – reds, whites, rosés, sparkling and champagnes – with a particular focus on French vintages, but including a strong representation of California, northern -western Pacific, Argentina and Chile. . You can also find great terroir offerings closer to home at vineyards like Chateau Fontaine, Amoritas Vineyards, L. Mawby, and 45 North.
The cellar of La Bécasse contains more than 2,000 bottles, and 1,000 others age in their crates. “That’s a lot of wine,” concedes chef Guillaume. It’s the kind of winery that collects awards and accolades from the most respected personalities wine spectator: La Bécasse has been recognized for 10 of the 15 years they have chosen to appear on their wine list.
Guillaume Hazaël-Massieux was born in Paris to a French mother and a West Indian father, absorbing the traditions and flavors of both cultures that came to inspire his professional life. Her mother grew up in Alsace, just 5 km from the German border, where she learned simple but hearty country recipes.
“Alsace Lorraine is a great culinary region,” he says, with its cuisine blending influences from France and Germany. As a child, chef Guillaume also lived for a time in the West Indies and was “extremely influenced by West Indian dishes”. At La Bécasse, a version of his mother’s onion pie is on the menu, while the West Indian influence is found in the sea scallops with salsa and mashed sweet potatoes.
But it was his education and training at the École des Arts Culinaires et de l’Hôtellerie in Lyon, France, where he was mentored by iconic chef Paul Bocuse, that made him the chef he is. today. (The rigorous international cooking school is now known as L’Institut Paul Bocuse.) Bocuse was at the forefront of nouvelle cuisine, emphasizing fresh, light and simple dishes, from locally sourced and beautifully prepared. Guillaume explains: “Paul Bocuse cleaned up the bases, went from very heavy sauces to lighter sauces, and gave [French cuisine] Some young people.
Chef Guillaume has perfectly adapted his professional training and the influence of the Bocuse style to the realities of a small kitchen. The chef adds: “Bocuse had a huge team. There might be 20 people in the kitchen, where one person might be responsible for nothing but green beans. Everything is perfectly made, but it is not durable [on a small scale].”
Luckily for us, La Bécasse has found the perfect niche between rustic simplicity and technical refinement.
When you go
La Bécasse serves 80-90 dinners on a typical summer evening, so reservations are essential. They also offer curbside pickup and catering for private events, both onsite and off, depending on the schedule. Become a subscriber for information on special events and wine dinners.
Find La Bécasse at 9001 S. Dunns Farm Rd, Maple City. restaurantlabecasse.com, (231) 334-3944.