Interview with Robert “Frenchy” Gagne

Robert “Frenchy” Gagne | Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House | Vancouver

I sat down with maitre d’ Frenchy last week on the private patio at Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House talking about taking care of the customers, entertainment and social media.

Originally from Sherbrooke, Quebec, Frenchy has worked at Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House since 1991. Since then Frenchy has made an indelible impression on the customers at Joe Fortes, including regular guests, tourists and visiting celebrities ranging from Sharon Stone to Jeff Bridges.

How did you get the nickname Frenchy?

Terms of Endearment –someone started calling me this in 1991 at Joe Fortes while I was working as a Bartender, the nickname just stuck and it was ok.

Who is the latest celebrity to dine in your restaurant?

Jeff Bridges, he dined at Joe Fortes a lot when in the city, I hung out with him and went boating.

What is your background in the restaurant industry in Canada?

My mother owned a restaurant in Quebec where I grew up and I worked in the restaurant, I then got a job at the Hilton in Montreal, and then moved to Vancouver and worked in the Timber Club at Hotel Vancouver for 3 years, then at the Mandarin Hotel for 4 years and then the William Tell, and in 1991 joined Joe Fortes.

At Joe Fortes, please describe your role as maitre d’

Circus Master, I make sure the music and lighting is right, supervise staff, quality check, make sure the customer has a great experience, it’s like a 2 hour movie –entertainment—the experience –emotions, feeling, washrooms are memorable at restaurants.

Are there many people that you are aware of who have tried to snag your position at your restaurant?

I am sure people have applied, I wish people the best fortune.

What is the most memorable moment for you at Joe Fortes?

When you have people like Jeff Bridges or Leslie Nielson who become friends –that is rewarding.

What is it that you look for when you dine at a restaurant outside of Joe Fortes?

That the people read the mood right.

If you weren’t a Matr’d what would you be doing?

A failed actor, I am a people guy and I would be working with people in some way.

How did you feel when you were named to B.C. Restaurant Hall of Fame in 2007?

Oh man I never expected to be in the company of the greats in this city, humbling, flattering and it makes me want to work harder.

What advice would you give someone who wants to become a maitre d’?

Stay healthy, stay current and earn your trade.

If you were ever offered to be a part of a reality tv show would you consider it?

He laughs, and says you know I would.

What did you want to do when growing up?

Restaurant industry and acting, I was a bit of a show-off back then and everything just fell into place.

Have you ever been offered a job at another restaurant? If yes why did you turn it down?

Yes – because I work for the best outfit in town.

Is there a memorable meal in a restaurant that you had while growing up that influenced you in your career choice?

First time I went to a French restaurant, the showmanship turned me on and impressed me.

Why do celebrities come to Joe Fortes?

We give celebrities space and treat them like real people, they like the freedom and frequent us when visiting, we have had many celebrities dine with us over the years including Leslie Nielson, Jeff Bridges and many more.

By: Richard Wolak