It seemed only fitting for William Baxter to name his new restaurant after his grandmother.
Jane Fleniken didn't just leave behind the physical building where his French bistro would eventually open. She's also the reason Baxter loves cooking French cuisine in the first place.
"I'm sure she would be very proud and very happy that we carried on the building and converted it into something useful and tasteful," Baxter said. "The building kind of came pre-decorated because it was her antique shop. We kept the décor on the walls and the ceilings and everything. I think she would be very happy that we're kind of carrying on her name. She was a big influence on me, and she's one of the reasons I'm a chef today."
Fleniken, who died in August 2018 at the age of 93, spent most of her life traveling to and from France for her business, Antiques and Interiors. She often took her daughter and grandson along, and Baxter developed a love for French cuisine.
Baxter, 38, grew up cooking Cajun staples alongside his mom and grandmother in Lafayette. He earned a culinary degree in New York City and worked for Michelin-star restaurants in California, Florida and New Orleans before returning to his hometown of Lafayette.
After two years of work, Jane's French Cuisine will open Thursday at 618 E. University Ave. Baxter and his general manager, Michael Hughes, welcomed friends and family for a test run on Monday evening.
"It was rewarding to see people appreciating all the hard work and effort," Baxter said. "I'm anticipating a lot more hard work and effort in the future. As we go along, we're going to get better and better."
Hughes moved to Lafayette for the management position after spending years working at restaurants in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. His decision to relocate was twofold. Hughes loves the culture, people and energy of Lafayette and sees the restaurant industry as more stable in Lafayette than New Orleans for the foreseeable future.
"COVID has really, really shut down the city of New Orleans," Hughes said. "In my opinion, it's going to take years before it really comes back. When this opportunity came up, I jumped on it. The restaurant is beautiful, and I have confidence in Will and his cuisine."
The small, contemporary French bistro has a handful of tables inside and a few more outside. The menu will change regularly depending on what ingredients are available and what's inspiring the chef-owner.
One of Baxter's favorite dishes was also a customer favorite during Monday's soft opening. It's a roasted poussin chicken with Dijon buerre blanc, potato soufflé, autumn burgundy truffle and microgreens.
"I just love the fresh truffles," Baxter said. "And there's just something comforting about roast chicken."
Jane's French Cuisine is open from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Reservations are recommended.
Learn more by visiting janesfrenchcuisine.com or calling (337) 534-0442.