When Hurricane Irma handed lemons to chef Sebastien Maillard, he made his own batch of delicious lemonade. Maillard was the proprietor of the popular French restaurant Le Lafayette when the storm ripped through Naples in September 2017. Visiting the location afterward, he was initially encouraged.
“The exterior looked fine, and I thought we’d be able to reopen in 10 days,” recalls Maillard. “But then I went inside, and it was devastating—the ceiling had collapsed, and there was debris and water damage everywhere.”
He bounced back in short order, opening another venue—Bistro La Baguette—on Tamiami Trail in East Naples. Initially intended to be temporary, the restaurant morphed into his new home when he was unable to resolve the repairs with his landlord. His sister, Valerie, runs the dining room along with his partner, Juan Camarena. “Fortunately, we were blessed with very loyal customers. When we opened on December 1, we were booked for the entire season.”
Maillard attributes his long-time success to the French comfort food he learned to cook as a child. Originally from Cannes, he was trained by his mother and father (from Normandy and Brittany, respectively) as well as his grandparents. He began working in restaurants at age 13. His menu is a roll call of such classics as escargot, foie gras terrine, sweetbreads, and bouillabaisse.
“I’m old-fashioned,” he admits, “so I cook the traditional dishes I learned growing up. I want to represent my country and my heritage in the best possible way.”
New at Bistro La Baguette is a farmers market, held every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. In addition to cheese, pâté, pastries, and local produce, the restaurant sells some of its more popular dishes, like cassoulet and beef Bourguignon to go.