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Scott Carsberg @ Fran's

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Does anyone else think this is totally weird?


Though I do find Frans' flavor assortment a bit on the boring side, they do what they do really well. I wonder what will change.

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  1. I had no idea that Fran's would NEED a chef de cuisine.... I don't get it either. Esp. someone of Scott C's pedigree.

    1 Reply
    1. re: gingershelley

      Exactly. Maybe they are adding another line or something savory. Foie gras gold bites?

    2. Fois gras truffles---there's a product that Carsberg could perfect!!

      1. It is somewhat unexpected but I'm not sure I'd exactly couch it as weird. Actually, I think it is fairly savvy on the part of both Fran's and Carsberg. Fran's is a company well-known for minting money with their popular legacy products like salted caramels. I can't say that my perception is that they have ever been known for great innovation as far as new products. If anything, Theo's perhaps gets more of the cred for that (whether they really deserve it or not).

        By scooping up Carsberg in a rare interval when he is between restaurants, Fran's gets access to someone who IS an impressive innovator when it comes to a command of flavors and ingredients. Carsberg also has a deep rolodex of connections in Europe, both within chocolate-making and without. So he'll likely have access to some very high-quality, obscurely-sourced ingredients that Fran's wouldn't be able to get on their own.

        Fran's is a family business and Carsberg is a maverick who has been working for himself for the past couple of decades. So there might be some adjustment there in tuning the machine. But I'd say the potential upside of this is huge. If Fran's gets this right and gives Carsberg a nice big playground, he'll likely produce a bunch of new products, probably including some savory ones, taking the company in new directions. And Carsberg gets to explore a fresh new challenge without the entire weight of the business being carried on his shoulders.

        19 Replies
        1. re: SarahColson

          Nice assessment of the situation; Sarah - do you personally know Scott or have some involvement with Fran's? Curious, as I don't recognize your name as a regular poster, but you seem to know in-depth about this situation.

          Thanks for the info!

          1. re: gingershelley

            I was a long-time patron of Lampreia and Bisato. I'm an admirer of Chef Carsberg but don't really know him personally. And no involvement in Fran's though I saw the press release about this which was a bit more thorough than what has come out in the media so far. I work in the Seattle food industry so I have perhaps a bit more interest in this situation than most.

            1. re: SarahColson

              Thanks for filling in the picture a bit more on your insights:)

          2. re: SarahColson

            "Fran's is a family business and Carsberg is a maverick who has been working for himself for the past couple of decades. "

            I think that is a lot of why I find it strange, seems like an odd fit. Isn't Scott known to be a bit temperamental? I knew someone who got kicked out of Lampreia for criticizing the foie gras, granted that was 15 years ago and he probably deserved it...

            I only went to Lampreia once, and I don't remember if I had dessert, but that the dessert menu seemed very simple. Lemon tart, chocolate mousse - maybe executed in a more modern or beautiful way, but not an impressive innovator with flavors. But that was just an impression, and my one visit didn't draw me back. I don't recall his restaurants being particularly known for dessert, and I don't think of him as a pastry chef.

            Not that you need to be a pastry chef to work for Fran's, but chocolates and confections are a particularly finicky branch of a finicky profession. I'd find it odd if pretty much any other chef in town was announced as suddenly switching to chocolate.

            But it will be interesting to see what he brings to the table.

            1. re: babette feasts

              Hi, Babette: "[I]t will be interesting to see what he brings to the table."

              What table would that be? That's one of the truly weird aspects of this. It's like Tim's Potato Chips announcing Chef Thierry becoming its chef de cuisine.

              I, too, only went to Lampreia once. Overweening preciousness, "plating uber alles", killed it for me. Strike Me Dead, but the food wasn't all that good, either.


              1. re: kaleokahu

                "Tim's Potato Chips announcing Chef Thierry becoming its chef de cuisine."

                That'd be kinda awesome though, right?
                Maybe we could get a consumer packaged version of these...

                1. re: GreenYoshi

                  Duck fat fried kettle chips?

                2. re: kaleokahu

                  Not a table... candy store? New temptations in the check-out line?

                  Funny, I was thinking Thierry was the only chef in town I could see becoming an artisan confectioner, but maybe that is because he is French and has a huge sweet tooth, and I know him. I don't know Scott at all. Maybe he has been a closet chocolatier for years. I totally respect his restaurateuring, I'm just surprised by the career move. I hope he takes that candied orange peel, soaks it in yuzu juice, and sprinkles it with salt and szechuan pepper.

                3. re: babette feasts

                  Actually, Carsberg got quite a lot of press for some of his desserts. For instance, The New York Times raved about his orange confit with chocolate caramel mousse. I wouldn't be surprised if an enrobed candied orange rind is one of the new Fran's products right out of the box.

                  I've certainly heard a lot of stories about the chef's behavior. But I never witnessed any of it firsthand despite going to both Lampreia and Bisato a LOT. And frankly, I didn't care. I'm not from Seattle and could never understand why everything about restaurants and food is so personal here. Apparently, one of the first times Mark Bittman came to Seattle and was asking about where he should eat, he mentioned that he heard about Lampreia and someone said "No, don't go there. The chef is mean." Bittman's response was, "Yeah, but is the food good?"

                  As a former Manhattanite, I moved to Seattle and found myself trying a lot of restaurants that were recommended to me and subsequently wondering what all of the raves were about. There is SO much restaurant hyperbole in Seattle. Lampreia and Le Gourmand were two of the places where I finally found food that lived up to the hype. Clearly, a lot of Seattle diners just never understood a chef like Carsberg (including some commenting here) and a broad demographic of people will always prefer a "celebrity" chef over a chef with real skill (who might not always adhere to the hackneyed "the customer is always right" sentiment). But what I see there is a remarkable confidence in what's he's doing. I think it takes balls to only use three or four ingredients and let them stand on their own. Even at some of Seattle's better restaurants (like Book Bindery) I see chef's putting flowers and extra crap on the plate that doesn't need to be there.

                  I think anything Carsberg does will be interesting. That's he's turning his attention full time to chocolate is VERY compelling.

                  1. re: SarahColson

                    Hi, Sarah: "Actually, Carsberg got quite a lot of press for some of his desserts. For instance, The New York Times raved ..."

                    Yeah, that was Bittman-in-Love in Fall 2004, when he wrote 3 monthly paeans to Carsberg, along with some of the recipes. The chocolate caramel/orange confit combo was even included in the NYT's Dessert Cookbook (wonder who made that happen?).

                    I wish him well, whatever his role at Fran's will be.


                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      Bittman certainly seems like a die-hard fan. Carsberg has never seemed particularly good at selling himself as much as some other Seattle chefs are. The "keep your head down, do a good job and don't brag about yourself" philosophy seems like a very Old School Pacific Northwest thing. Frank Bruni and others seem to have skipped over Carsberg in their own more recent coverage in favor of focusing more on places like Lummi Island and some of Renee Erickson's recent ventures.

                    2. re: SarahColson

                      Chocolate with caramel and orange is not exactly an earth-shattering flavor combo. In a restaurant, you can take classic flavors and plate them in a beautiful or striking way, or do chocolate-caramel-orange six ways and in nine textures or whatever, so it may be a simple classic combination but done in a surprising way. Bonbons and bars have more constraints.

                      Fran's already has enrobed candied orange rind. It's one of the more basic confections. Simple can be exquisite, but I prefer more excitement.

                      1. re: babette feasts

                        Well to be honest I don't know exactly what products they'll be doing. But something doesn't have to be elaborate to be exciting and I think that classic Lampreia dessert was deserving of the attention it got. Maybe they'll add salt to the outside of the chocolate to pick up the flavor a bit. I've heard rumors of other things in the works...like enrobed lemon rind or even a confit of tomato. Or maybe even enrobing fresh fruits, like raspberries. One of Carsberg's particular talents is concentrating and distilling flavor with his ingredients. It was what I liked best about his cooking. Either way it is clear that Fran's finally seems like they've pulled over, parked their minivan and have jumped into a Maserati. I'm much more curious than cynical about what may come from this collaboration.

                        1. re: SarahColson

                          Salt? On chocolate? Can they do that?

                          But seriously, I wonder if Fran is retiring or how this came about. It was not a job that was advertised - actually I'm not sure I've ever seen Fran's seeking help on Craigslist, and I do like to keep an eye on pastry industry shuffles. Maybe Fran and Scott are friends and she knows he understands the level of perfectionism required. I have heard they are moving production out of the capitol hill space but keeping it.

                          I am curious to see what he comes up with. Chocolate on tomatoes could be fun!

                          1. re: babette feasts

                            Not really sure how Carsberg and Fran got together. I'm hoping to see the Seattle Times or Seattle Magazine cover this story in a bit more detail as their recent announcement seemed to spawn more questions than answers. Fran Bigelow certainly seems like she's at the age in which it would be easy to retire, especially in that her son and daughter are partners running the operation now. But taking on a Michelin-starred chef to kick things in the pants seems to me to be a more a move to grow and advance the business, not to just keep things at a steady cruising altitude. Yes, I've heard they've outgrown their CH factory and are building a brand new production facility in Georgetown.

                        2. re: babette feasts

                          If I recall correctly, Carsberg's orange confit used whole oranges which I remember thinking was interesting. It wasn't so much the flavor combination that was impressive as it was the creativity and dedication of simmering whole oranges in simple syrup for hours to remove all the bitterness from the rind so you could eat the whole thing.

                          1. re: GreenYoshi

                            Hi, GY:

                            You may be right about the whole orange thing, but IIRC, Bittman said the fruit was quartered. Same point, and well taken, about dedication, though. Same deal with his candied nuts.


                            1. re: GreenYoshi

                              I had forgotten that it was the whole orange wedge but you're exactly right. The recipe that I saw in the NY Times was very simple. But the fork-tender orange rind with just the right balance of bitter and sweet was a very elegant product.

                          2. re: SarahColson

                            SC - You are so, so, so right on about Seattle and, IMHO, the sometimes misguided love a lot of people give to some of the restaurants/chefs in this town. Lampreia/Bisato were some of the best. It was about great food. BTW... we used to live in the same building as Carsberg and we always thought it was very nice. Especially to our son. Regardless of him being nice or mean, we loved eating at his place.

                      2. Yep, pretty weird.