Sisters Rougui and Aminata Dia were raised in France but their family hails from Senagal. They learned to cook from their mother, and then pursued the culinary arts as adults. They took very different paths in their professional careers, but now the Dia sisters are coming together in Denver to open an all-day bakery and bistro called Le French, which will open in early April at 4901 South Newport Street in the Belleview Station development.
Rougui (who was born in France) knew she wanted to become a chef, even as a teenager, so she went through the French apprenticeship program and was soon cooking in some of the top restaurants in Paris. In 2005, she landed the executive chef role at Le Petrossian 144, a move that stunned the French culinary world because a black woman had never helmed a Michelin-starred restaurant before. At Petrossian, she introduced elements of Senegalese cuisine to the menu before moving on to become executive chef at Le Vraymonde in the Buddha-Bar Hotel in 2013.
Meanwhile, Aminata (who was born in Senegal but moved to France at a very young age) had moved to the United States, and eventually came to Colorado with her husband and opened her own corporate catering business. Over the years, the sisters have cooked together on a few occasions, Aminata explains, including a ten-day tour of Brazil for a series of special dinners. She says she also worked in Rougui's pastry boutique, Un Amour de Baba, in Paris while visiting there.
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Rougui recently moved to Denver with the goal of opening a restaurant with her sister. "It's been something we've been thinking about for a long time," Aminata notes. The new eatery will open for breakfast, serving French pastries, coffee from Boulder's Dragonfly Roasters and other breakfast items in the morning, with a transition to more upscale bistro fare in the evening.
Even with her years of fine-dining experience and accolades in Paris (her chef's coat even hangs on display in France's National Museum of Immigration History), Rougui's goal is a casual and approachable dining room, especially during the day. Lunch will see familiar French favorites like crêpes and quiche, but dinner will explore a wide range of global flavors and ingredients combined in preparations more typically found in Paris's most modern culinary destinations. Other highlights include "Afternoon Delight," a cart-service happy hour from 2:30 to 5 p.m. serving coffee, tea, cocktails and appetizers; a grab-and-go case with sandwiches and salads; and an evening dessert bar with both traditional and modern treats.
Le French will seat 77 guests inside, with room for twenty more on the patio, and will be open every day but Monday, with brunch served on the weekends. See some of Rougui and Aminata's creations on Le French's Instagram feed.