Jean and Myriam Dandonneau pursued their dream and the result is University Park's Mademoiselle Paris.
Jean and Myriam Dandonneau met in Paris 15 years ago.
The now-married couple have long-since bonded over their passion for food and wine, but they never dreamed they would own a restaurant — especially in the United States. The idea first came to them while they were eating lunch with a friend in 2014.
“I’m tired of France,” Jean Dandonneau remembered his friend saying. “I pay taxes too much. Would you be an investor with us?”
The Dandonneaus weren’t ready to invest in a restaurant, and their friend never pursued his plan. But the idea stuck with them. They visited Florida, fell in love with its weather, nature and architecture, moved to the state in June 2016 and attacked their goal without fear.
“It was a dream,” Jean Dandonneau said. “And we are workers. So when we have an idea in mind, we give all the energy we have.”
Three months after their arrival, they teamed up with downtown Sarasota-based bistro C’est La Vie and started a franchise location at University Town Center. After a four-year partnership, the Dandonneaus split from C’est La Vie in October and rebranded as Mademoiselle Paris.
The Dandonneaus have made a few changes since setting out on their own. For one, they’ve increased their emphasis on dinner. That meant adding new dishes such as risotto with scallops and boeuf bourguignon, a beef stew braised in red wine.
Speaking of wine, the Dandonneaus like to think they know it pretty well. When they sold their house in France, they also had to sell 700 bottles of wine.
“My heart was broken each time,” Jean Dandonneau said. “Because I picked them one by one.”
Since rebranding as Mademoiselle Paris, they have refined their wine list. Most of their wines, except for the pinot grigio, are from France. They aim to serve high-quality wine while also providing options that aren’t exorbitantly expensive. Options for bottles in the $30 to $50 range include several selections from Bordeaux and a chardonnay from Languedoc-Roussillon on France’s southern coast.
Many of these changes have been made to bring more authenticity to the restaurant. They also employ two French chefs, Max Sabel and Arnaud Wallet, the latter of whom used to cook in Paris and has 22 years of experience.
However, some changes have been made to put a spin on classic French options. For example, they added a maple bacon croissant to appeal to Canada natives, among others, who live in the Sarasota-Bradenton area.
Aside from food and wine, the Dandonneaus pride themselves on creating a friendly environment. It starts with themselves and their employees.
“We try to do some things to bond with each other, to drink a little bit, to talk about each other,” Jean Dandonneau said. “Life is short. You (shouldn’t go) to work and say, ‘No, I don't want to work with these people.’”
It helps that they love the people of the Sarasota-Bradenton area.
“You have a very positive state of mind,” Jean Dandonneau said. “Everyday, people tell us this is wonderful, this is great. France can be a little grumpy sometimes.”
The Cypress Creek residents and their 10-year-old son, Valentin, are starting to feel like locals.
“We love this place,” Myriam Dandonneau said.