Chef José and Victoria Martinez of Maison Blanche
WORDS BY MARISSA GUGGIANA
PHOTOS BY KATHRYN BRASS
José and Victoria Martinez own the elegant Maison Blanche on Longboat Key. A reification of Frenchness on American soil; a renaissance of their Maison Blanche Arrondissement 8, a Michelin-starred restau in Paris. A handsome couple, who both mentioned that their favorite greasy spoon meal was rillettes, they are like a more sophisticated species from the Planet Hexagon. But in the beauty of cross-cultural exchange, they have learned to appreciate the hamburger and earnest farm-to-table initiatives while offering us the terrine, the confit, the beignet.
Victoria runs the front of the house and José is the chef. Like all maisons, there are roles and then all the connective tissue of shared inspiration and sweat. I like these ‘his & hers’ answers, they say something sweet and simple about the nature of marriage as well as the influences of these gifted individuals.
IN THE KITCHEN
Clockwise: Chef José prepping for dinner; Maison
Blanche’s new menu; one of Chef Jose’s many
knives; an organized kitchen
What was your favorite food as a kid?
VICTORIA:Orange flavored beignet made by my mother.
What was the first meal you made that you were proud of?
JOSÉ: Crepes at six years old.
VICTORIA:I was spoiled so I didn’t start to cook full meals until I was about thirty years old. But when I was a teenager I loved to make clafoutis.
What three adjectives describe your cuisine?
JOSÉ: Precise, respectful, and flavorful.
VICTORIA:Simple, flavorful, and exotic.
What book most influences your food, cookbook or otherwise?
VICTORIA:Pierre Hermé is my favorite author for pastry books and I am inspired by the work of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.
What chef do you most admire?
VICTORIA:I admire many chefs, it’s a very difficult profession which demands much patience and commitment. The closest to me would be my brother and my husband and I have a special weakness for Michel Guérard, who is both a remarkable chef and pastry chef, which is rare.
What is your favorite ingredient?
VICTORIA:Herbs, I love herbs.
What music do you like to hear when you cook?
JOSÉ: I do not cook with music, the music is in the cooking.
VICTORIA:I enjoy listening to the various noises of the pots and pans and the creation of the dish. It is very relaxing.
What is your favorite midnight snack?
VICTORIA:My husband’s caramel.
What kitchen utensil is most indispensable to you?
JOSÉ: A spoon.
VICTORIA:For savory dishes, a knife and for sweet dishes, a scale.
What food trend would you most like to erase from the annals of history?
JOSÉ: SPAM and GMO’s in all the foods that we have today.
VICTORIA:Nothing in food for me, but in drinks it would definitely be soda.
What do you most value in a sous chef?
JOSÉ: Aptitude to duplicate.
If you could do one other job, what would it be?
JOSÉ: Racecar driver.
What one food would you take with you on a desert island?
JOSÉ: Tomato, because we use it as a vegetable but it is a fruit.
What is your favorite guilty pleasure treat?
What most satisfies your sweet tooth?
VICTORIA:Grand Marnier Souffle.
What would you eat at your last meal, if you could plan such a thing?
VICTORIA:Oysters with a brut champagne.
Cheeseburger or foie gras?
JOSÉ: I enjoy both, I think a burger is one of the best American traditions.
VICTORIA:Foie gras, cooked in a fireplace.
What’s your favorite for …
…a splurge meal?
JOSÉ: Winter truffle.
VICTORIA:Private jet to Maison Pic in Valence, France. We had dinner there last year, it was absolutely divine. For the private jet, I will just have to try the lottery.
VICTORIA:Fresh baquette, salty butter, honey, and black coffee.
JOSÉ: Apple tart.
…a late night/after work meal?
VICTORIA:Tomato salad with olive oil and sea salt is very refreshing.
…a greasy spoon meal?
JOSÉ: Goose Rillettes.
VICTORIA:Duck rillettes, little sardines and tuna in olive oil.
VICTORIA:I go everywhere: Whole Foods, Publix, Morton’s, Trader Joes.
VICTORIA:I love Jose’s ice cream- the vanilla ice cream in particular, it is homemade.
JOSÉ: 90% dark.
VICTORIA:My favorite chocolate store is La Maison du Chocolat. They are the most exquisite chocolates.
Maison Blanche: 2605 Gulf of Mexico Dr, Longboat Key; 941-383-8088; maisonblancherestaurants.com.