French Business Owner in Ocala, Florida Tells His Story
Story by Lisa Anderson • Photos by Joshua Jacobs
“Everyone can cook, no? It is just a good way to share your culture.”
Full of gratitude is the phrase that bests describes La Cuisine French Restaurant owner, Patrice Perron. From the moment you meet him you can feel it. He is genuinely grateful.
“It is a great honor to tell my story,” he begins. “When you own a restaurant, of course you are an entrepreneur and want to own a business, but it is the passion for food you want to share,” he explains.
His past as well as his future are important to him. Son of Alex and Genevieve Perron, Partrice harkens from Lyon, France, which is located in the southern region and is the third largest city in the country. It has a history steeped in culture with the food industry playing a large role. It is where he studied culinary arts, at the Institut Paul Bocuse, but his passion for food began at an early age.
“I grew up in this culture of good food, good wine, and good cheese.” His description of the region instantly makes you want to travel there, especially if you are a foodie. The city is surrounded by areas specializing in cheese, fruit, wine, and more.
“When I was a kid, I was fascinated with staying in the kitchen with my mother. She was a fabulous cook.”
Patrice recalls the charts she had in the kitchen to help her with preparing the foundational recipes. “I think the French cuisine is the only cuisine in the world where there is qualification. When I went to school, you learn the basics first.” He lists the types of stocks and explains once you’ve learned how to make them, then you move onto the next thing.
“There are so many qualifications of French cuisine and you have to learn all of it. Based on all that, 90 percent of a restaurant can survive. What we call a chef is the one with creativity.” A chef uses his knowledge and creativity to elevate the food.
The Road to Ocala
Patrice’s life did not run in a straight line. Like his personality, his career was more fluid. He attributes a lot of his character traits to his father, who was a successful entrepreneur and believed in learning about business. So, before becoming a chef, Patrice went to business school and found himself in Canada. It was there he spent his spring breaks in New York and fell in love with the United States.
Worried about failing in his own business and disappointing his family, he moved to Paris where he took a position in a bank for ten years. He eventually transferred to a branch in Lyon, and the bank had a skill development program. This is how Patrice was able to attend the culinary institute.
At 35 years old, Patrice knew he needed to work harder to get his dream of owning a restaurant moving faster. He attended school while also working in the kitchen under a master chef.
In 2005, Patrice and his wife, Elodie, took a vacation to Florida. A friend had purchased a home in the Ocala area, and, at the end of the trip, they stopped by for a visit. Their friend knew of Patrice’s dream to own a restaurant in the United States and told him he thought Ocala was going to be a good hub in a few years, considering its location. “He’s really a businessman — a wise man,” Patrice states.
After selling all their assets, Patrice, Elodie, and their 3- and 5-year-old children flew to Orlando in August 2009. “We arrived here with a large investment that we could buy the building, and it was a condition of the American immigration laws.”
Obtaining a U.S. visa requires a lot of paperwork, time, and a thorough background check. “You have to show them everything. You have to tell them everything from the last three generations. My grandfather was in the French resistance during the war, and they asked us what he was doing!”
However, Patrice felt he had received a good sign when he found himself on the plane with Paul Bocuse. “He’s a legend. This is the model they used for the Ratatouille movie. Even though I went to his school, I never met him, and here I had the time for seven hours to talk to him. It was magic. It was a symbol.”
Having already taken a business trip to scout the area in 2008, Patrice and family moved directly to Ocala. They purchased their building and opened La Cuisine just off the main square, fulfilling his lifelong dream.
Finding Comfort in Routine
Building community and building a business requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and a good routine. Patrice spent the first seven years in the kitchen, but currently focuses more on the administrative side of the restaurant.
A daily routine now is to arrive in the morning, check the numbers from the day before and address any problems that may have occurred. Once the cook arrives, he discusses the specials, begins prep, and checks the schedules. Patrice has a lot of confidence in his staff and no longer feels the need to stay until close. “But I’m there almost every day. I’m a control freak,” he says with a smile.
Embraced by Community
Everyone in the country, including Ocalans, was affected by the 2020 shutdowns, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurant owners especially suffered, but the situation for the Perrons was a bit more stressful due to the immigration laws. “We are still under [the same] visa. It means, tomorrow, if the business shutdowns, we’d have to go back home,” explains Patrice. “[Last year] was a big struggle. This is where you realize that no matter what, you can give up, of course, or you can thrive even more. It forces you to find a solution.”
Whether the public knew about their situation or not, they stepped up to make sure La Cuisine’s doors stayed opened. As they did for so many small businesses, the community did whatever they could to support this fabulous French restaurant. This included curbside orders and even a virtual wine tasting. “The support of the local community was huge.” Patrice’s eyes begin to sparkle with emotion, as he recalls those uncertain days. “It was super emotional, because people came so many times. I cannot say enough thank you. Thank you.”
A Bright Future
Patrice is looking to the future as dreamers and good businessmen often do. La Cuisine is currently thriving, and he is considering doing more catering and possible expansions. He doesn’t think he’ll ever open a second restaurant, because their business model would not work as a chain.
As long as the community continues to support the restaurant, Patrice and his family plan to remain in the United States. Ocala is their home, and Ocala, it seems, is happy to share in Patrice’s culture, and his table and to have him as a part of the family.
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Lisa is the creator, editor in chief, and creative director of The Chews Letter magazine. Lisa's work has been featured in Designer Original, In Fitness and In Health, and several community magazines. Find her on Instagram: @lisaandersonmedia | Clubhouse: @landersonmedia Follow The Chews Letter: @thechewsletter.com