HAVING spent his childhood fishing and picking shellfish off the rocks on the Atlantic coast of France with his grandfather, chef Charles-Etienne Pretet always knew his life would revolve around fresh produce.
And although she grew up half a world away on a property at Angourie, Merindah Byrne Pretet was raised with the same passion.
So when the pair's worlds collided in Paris while Merindah was dancing with the Moulin Rouge, it was only natural that they would bring their love of good food to the table. Now they plan to share that love with the community of Yamba, through the opening tomorrow night of new restaurant The French Pan Tree.
"We moved back to Australia a couple of years ago, but when we came to Yamba four months ago this was the whole reason we moved back,” Mr Pretet said.
"I just wanted to create the food that I love.”
Over the past few months the pair, with the help of financial partner and friend Kevin Serret, have been designing The French Pan Tree's menu and restaurant space at the top of Clarence St, drawing inspiration from their upbringings.
"Food and good produce has always been a part of my life - mum used to cook everything from scratch so I just grew up with fresh food,” Mr Pretet said.
"I definitely consider myself pretty lucky to be able to grow up eating good food; we always had local fresh seafood and fish, so I thought I might be able to do the same thing in Yamba, based on my childhood recipes.”
Mr Pretet has also drawn from his wellspring of hospitality knowledge, having been in the industry for 15 years and previously owned a restaurant in the heart of Paris, right next to the Louvre.
"I was doing French gastronomic food there and I wasn't the chef, I was managing the floor, so this is something a bit different.
"The food we're bringing to Yamba is traditional with a modern twist.”
While Mr Pretet will be creating in the kitchen with another chef from Evans Head, Merindah - who also runs retail outlet Rooster and Rabbit with her mum - will work front-of-house.
"She's local and knows everyone so it will be perfect,” Mr Pretet said.
The French Pan Tree will be open from 6pm six nights a week, from Wednesday to Monday. For bookings, go to thefrenchpantree.com.au or text 0427 904 443.