hat would Arkansas’ fine and upscale dining consist of if these four gentlemen had not come together to make culinary magic at the legendary Jacques & Suzanne restaurant atop what is now the Regions Bank building overlooking downtown Little Rock? Those old enough to appreciate the idea of watermelon radishes, ‘raw bars’ and hand rolled sushi, former foreign concepts for the majority of Arkansans, can applaud these four for expanding dining options. They have since ventured out with their own locations that have developed a second and third generation of chefs and restaurants with ties to them. We counted at least 20 restaurants opened in the past 30 years since Jacques & Suzanne closed its doors May 1986 with a dinner to end all dinners. Thanks to Louis, Paul, Ed and Denis, diners from across the state and beyond continue to dine at their culinary offshoots, most of which are still open today.
Food Hall of Fame
Joe St. Columbia
Capi Peck – Trio’s, Little Rock
Chicken and dumplings, voodoo pasta with its chicken, shrimp and Andouille sausage over spinach fettuccine, Trio’s Chicken Salad (with a Jell-O square with Bing cherries!) and Peck’s Special salad served with the original vinaigrette from her grandparent’s legendary Hotel Sam Peck on Capitol Avenue are items that cannot be removed from the Trio’s. Since 1986, Capi Peck has enticed a loyal following, now on its second generation of diners with her eclectic menu offerings. In addition to the devoted diners who fill her restaurant day and night, Peck is most proud of the young people she’s had an opportunity to mentor with many going into various areas in the restaurant industry. A large number of her staff have been with her for more than 10 years; several since the 1980’s, all of whom she calls family. In 2007 she opened a second location, Capi’s, at the start of the recession. It operated for 3 years. Lesson learned, “I’m a one restaurant kind of woman! I am too hands on to do more than one!” Staying true to the global cuisine her grandparents introduced to the state in the 1940’s, Peck continues to serve food she likes—Pan Asian, ‘interior’ Mexican, creole and Cajun, Thai, VietNamese and soul food.
Scott McGehee – Yellow Rocket Concepts, Little Rock
How does a reluctant college student go from Little Rock to California to learn cooking at the hem of culinary goddess Alice Waters of the famed Chez Panisse? Ask Scott McGehee. After a few years honing their skills, McGehee and best friend Roger Runnells return home to open the city’s first European styled bakery, Boulevard Bread, with crusty baguettes, a variety of cheeses not found in grocery stores, soups and more. Now, with partners John Beachboard and Russ McDonough, the three are casual dining powerhouses. If you have a favorite cuisine, they probably have it covered—Big Orange, great burgers and milk shakes; ZaZa Fine Salad and Wood Oven Pizza in Little Rock and Conway; Local Lime’s creative salsas, tacos and tequilas; and Lost Forty, a microbrewery with ribs smoking outside and Heights Taco & Tamale Company, described as Delta Mexican. Sit tight, because something tells us, McGehee’s not through adding dining options. “My amazing family, restaurant group and leaders are very excited about the future of food in Arkansas and have plans to being part of that puzzle.” And, so we wait.
Joe St. Columbia – Pasquale’s Hot Tamales, Helena
Joe St. Columbia is proud of his Sicilian heritage. His grandfather Pasquale St. Columbia made his home in Helena in 1892 traveling from Sicily from New Orleans via the Mississippi River. His grandfather sent for his father and mother in 1897. “Around 1910 my father and grandfather learned to make tamales from immigrant farm workers, many of whom were Mexican he befriended on his routes as a merchant. “I call it a Delta Tamale because we use more seasoning than the Mexicans as well as top sirloin and chuck roast.” After retiring, Joe took over the family business, with the name Pasquales Tamales. “I’ve taught one of my sons to make them, so the family legacy will continue,” stated St. Columbia. With the recipe unchanged since his father and grandfather perfected it, St. Columbia said he’s been told it’s the oldest tamale recipe in the state.
By Brigette Williams :: Photography by Jamison Mosley :: Graphic Design by Marrissa Miller