Frenchie's Shannon Castrec: "I'm Not a Chef Who Needs to Scream"
Shannon Castrec is the proverbial man behind the curtain at the Coral Gables French-themed eatery Frenchie's Diner. Opened in 2013, this local hot spot has garnered significant praise around town for its homey take on classic French fare. Together with her husband, Gabriel, Shannon performs the herculean task of running an upscale restaurant while raising a bustling family of three young children.
billwisserphoto.com Shannon Castrec of Frenchie's Diner
If you're as curious as we were about how she does it all while still serving bubbling cauldrons of French onion soup without a hair in sight, check out our Bastille Day sitdown with this no-nonsense chef de cuisine.
New Times: Growing up, did you always want to cook, or was it something you fell into?
Shannon Castrec: Well, I always liked to cook, but it was never something I thought of doing as a career. I was in college as an English student and I really wanted to write. Unfortunately, my freshman year at University of Florida was around the time Danny Rolling was murdering a bunch of girls in Gainesville, so I got sidetracked from college and ended up in New York City. I went to cooking school at the French Culinary Institute; it just sort of happened. So, no, it wasn't something that I always knew I wanted to do even though I always loved to cook.
Did your mom or grandmother teach you how to cook?
No, actually. I wish I had one of those really good stories about coming from a big cooking family, but I don't. Growing up, it was mostly me and my sister making mac 'n' cheese for ourselves.
How did you break into the New York food scene after culinary school?
At school they would have chefs come in and do guest lectures, and one of them I just kept asking questions after class. Eventually he said, "Hey, ride in the cab with me; I've got to get to dinner service." He was so much fun to talk to, but I got a little nervous because he was a big chef at the time over at the 21 Club, and I got out of the cab without paying my half. So I wrote him a letter and stuck $5 in there, and he called and gave me my first job.
What came next?
I worked all around the city. The same chef who hired me at the 21 Club brought me over to Windows on the World. Picholine was a tough kitchen to work in, but I learned so much while I was there from one of their sous-chefs, Dave Pasternack, who's now a big chef in the city. Every place I worked in New York was hard-core.