French Chef Puts a New Twist on Tex-Mex

Former gas station converted into Fort Worth's newest Mexican diner

Bernard Tronche knows French food and he knows fine dining.  His Saint-Emilion restaurant in west Fort Worth has tempted and satisfied customers for 25 years. 

However, It turns out the French man also knows a thing or two about Mexican food.   He formed a partnership with longtime Saint-Emilion employee Francisco Islas and opened Paco & John Mexican diner at 1116 Eighth Avenue in the city's hospital district.

Islas, Tronche and his wife, former WFAA-TV reporter Karin Kelly, talked to NBCDFW about the new venture.

NBCDFW:  What made a French chef want to open a Mexican diner?

KELLY: Bernard is a creative person who just loves to be in the kitchen so he has cooked Mexican food at home for years. He also loves to cook Thanksgiving dinner with me, thank goodness!  He's even cooked Mexican food for big groups of friends in France - having flown there with many of the ingredients. Mexican food is a given in Fort Worth. People grow up with it and I think feel about Mexican food as many in the south might feel about home-style cooking. It's just comfort food and part of our Texas culture. Also, Bernard wanted to do a restaurant that was less expensive to operate. For Mexican food in general, the cost of the ingredients is less than some other types of food and presentation is casual with a less formal service.

NBCDFW: What French twists will diners taste?

TRONCHE: Running a fine dining restaurant for 25 years leaves you with certain standards. I like to create an attractive plate as well as serve good food. So color is important, as is a neat plate minus any spills or drips. At Paco & John I think we strive to present breakfast, lunch and soon dinner that look a bit different than the typical Tex-Mex plate. We don't cover everything in cheese. We're a bit lighter, fresher and more colorful. We believe in garnish, a little show of salad or vegetables along with the taco, the torta or whatever. We also offer some atypical choices like crab tamales, vegetarian tacos and eggs with trout as well beef fajitas and chicken enchiladas.  Also, I apply some French cooking techniques. I cook the pork carnitas in the same manner as the classic French duck confit. Another example (is) - our dessert flan --  a type of French baked custard that historically traveled to Spain and then Mexico. Ours is selling very well. We make it everyday. Try it!

NBCDFW: What's Bernard's favorite item on the menu?  What's Francisco's favorite?  What's the best seller, so far? 

TRONCHE: I like the shrimp quesadillas and the "street" tacos because they are small and fun. They remind me of eating street tacos in Mexico City. My wife and I traveled there last fall to do research for Paco & John. Francisco likes the salmon enchiladas. Karin likes the vegetarian tacos and the crab tamales, which is just a lunch special and will be on the dinner menu. (The) bestseller: tacos and enchiladas.

Paco & John is open Monday through Friday for breakfast and lunch 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  Brunch on Saturday is from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.. And, the diner just added dinner hours with BYOB.

And by the way, the restaurant is named for Tronche and Islas' first-born children.  Paco Isla, 16, is a high school student.  John-Laurent Tronche, 25, is a reporter for the Fort Worth Business Press.  Both work there sometimes and eat there often!

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