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Dining Review: Revisiting Côte D'Azur

Thanks to a new California chef, a beloved French bistro is better than ever.

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Gulfshore Life - In the Kitchen...Chef James Waller

He may be new to the Gulfshore, but not new to the heat behind the stove. Chef James Waller and his wife, Darlene, moved here a few months ago to take over North Naples’ hallowed French bistro Côte D’Azur and be closer to family-but he spent the last 20 years as the head chef and food and beverage director for the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa in California’s wine country, and before that he was at the renowned Hotel del Coronado in San Diego (cooking for the likes of Oprah, Bill Clinton and John Cleese in the process).
What drew you to Côte D’Azur?

What’s beautiful about the restaurant is that it’s not formulaic. We want people to be going out to a nice restaurant but feel like they’re at their house—to feel comfortable. I believe that sharing a meal with family and friends is part of the good life.

You’ve said you’re largely keeping the menu the same. What is one of your favorite dishes?
We’ve found people come here for the duck, and it’s really quite good. I’ve done lots of different preparations of duck over the years, and I had even tried places in San Francisco and LA just to find the best preparation. Claudio [Côte D’Azur’s former owner] would often run out of duck in season! Because you’re known for something, you do your best to have it on the menu—I am trying my hardest to make sure we always have enough duck.
While in Monterey, you were an active supporter of the aquarium’s pioneering Seafood Watch program and helped host an event that drew celebrity chefs to the cause. Tell us more about it.

The event was called Cooking for Solutions, which ran for about eight years in May. It was held at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and was about spreading the mission of seafood sustainability. I worked alongside and had the honor to host many great chefs: Alice Waters, Thomas Keller, Jacques Pépin, Guy Fieri. One of the most interesting chefs was a Michelin-starred chef from Iceland, the only one from that country. Hakon Orvarsson was his name. We hosted him two of the years.


Côte D′Azur Changes Hands but Remains the Same

The North Naples French restaurant has new owners who promise to stay faithful to its renowned reputation.

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