To formulate her new business, Jill Foucre mixed in her family heritage, a love of cooking from her late grandfather and her business skills to concoct a store to attract food lovers from throughout the area.
Last week, curious Glen Ellyn downtown strollers peered through large windows to see Foucre and her staff organize cookware, fine linens and other items on shelves as they prepared for today's (Monday, Sept. 26) soft, unofficial opening of Marcel’s Culinary Experience, 490 N. Main St., Glen Ellyn. The store will open at 10 a.m. A grand opening is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 8.
The retail store offers fine cookware, specialty foods and tableware, and an assortment of day and evening cooking classes offered in a state-of-the-art kitchen.
Foucre, the store’s owner and a Glen Ellyn resident, honored her late beloved grandfather Marcel Foucre by naming her business after him. Marcel, a French chef and restaurateur who grew up in Tours, France, enlisted in the French Navy during World War I and created dishes for those traveling on luxury cruise ships. He came to New York and settled in Philadelphia. In the 1930s, he opened a restaurant named after him.
Jill has fond memories of the man who gave her a joie de vivre when it came to cooking.
“I was 15 when he died in 1974,” she said. “He was a fabulous cook. I remember that he and his family lived out in Philadelphia area when I was a kid. He would come out here to visit. He would make us omelets and scrambled eggs and they were the most delicious things that you’ve ever tasted. He was a charming, unassuming and delightful little Frenchman. He was passionate about his craft.”
Finding the Tools and the Methods
Customers will find items from well-known culinary brands such as Le Creuset, Oxo and Emile Henry and unique products such as handmade dinnerware pieces from the New York-based Terrafirma Ceramics and French table linens from the upscale Virginia-based Garnier-Thiebaut.
“We’ve made a specific effort to find items that are not found every place in the area,” said, Jill Foucre, the store’s owner. “We’ve also made a specific effort to have a nice array of price points. We recognize that people want to have fine things for their homes and kitchens, but we also recognize that people want to be able to come in and find a hostess gift or a small gift that’s affordable. We have everything from $2 prep bowls to $2,800 espresso machines.”
The cooking classes, Foucre explained, are for any skill level and age group. With a range of diverse culinary backgrounds, Foucre has recruited Kelly Sears, the store’s executive chef, and four local on-staff experienced chefs to present 24 classes for the fall. Chef Jean True, events consultant, member of the culinary organization Les Dames d’Escoffier and former owner of True Cuisine, will teach Chinese cooking classes in November.
Hands-on evening classes, priced at $80, include recipes for a four-course meal, a shopping list, two glasses of wine or beer, an apron, and, of course, the foods that they prepared. Evening demonstration classes cost $70. The daytime cooking classes, priced at $30, are shorter in nature as students learn to make a three-course meal. The subjects range from sharpening knife skills to using spirits in recipes to learning about the sophisticated and flavorful cuisine of Mexico City.
The schedule can be found on marcelsculinaryexperience.com.
Foucre is originally from Elmhurst. Her main line of work has been with the health insurance industry, which has taken her to different parts of the United States to live. She first lived in Glen Ellyn from 1981 to 1987, and returned in 1999 for a job in Chicago and stayed. She left her job at UnitedHealthcare in June 2010 as chief operating officer of a division called UnitedHealth Networks.
Her plunge into the culinary world started when she looked at other interests in her 40s.
“I had a wonderful and extremely successful corporate career,” Foucre said. “I had been in the corporate world for my entire career. I had a great job, great opportunities and great career. I was very happy with all of that, but I definitely was getting to a point in my late 40s of thinking about ‘How do I try to do what I love as I come down the backside of a career mountain.’ I always kept coming back to cooking.”
The next step was to determine the right business model. Foucre considered studying to be a chef, catering or opening a restaurant but those options didn’t move her.
“I kept coming back to the (retail/cooking school) model because I personally enjoy going to place like this,” she said. “Either traveling with my husband or going around in our area, I love going to places where you have beautiful retail items and cooking classes.”
Foucre didn’t see her business as a hobby but a chance at a new profession. She fine-tuned her plan last August and did research such as visiting other culinary schools, checking out different suburbs and learning if there was a demand for her products and services. With certainty, she gave herself the green light to go forward in November.
“I have an extremely broad and deep set of skills and I really wanted to have a hand in running my own business and seeing if I can make that successful,” she said. “I love that I ended up in Glen Ellyn.”
Foucre added that she has received much support from the village's local merchants, the village board and the planning and development staff. Georgia Koch, executive director of the Glen Ellyn Chamber of Commerce, sees Foucre’s store as a destination place for residents and visitors.
“Glen Ellyn has nothing like this; it will be a marvelous addition to our downtown,” she said. “The ‘buzz’ on the street has been tremendous and the opening is eagerly anticipated.”
Getting into the community spirit, Koch added that the store is working with other downtown merchants such as The Bookstore and Cab’s Wine Bar Bistro.
“(Marcel’s staff) is truly reaching out to the business community to partner with other businesses,” she said.