The new directors, Thomas Curmi and Joseph Tabone, have a long association with Ta’ Frenċ and share the same ideals as the founders. With the able assistance of Executive Chef Joseph Brincat they are determined to build on Ta’ Frenċ’s reputation and to continue to serve their clients only the very best, in a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
Thomas Curmi, Director has been passionate about Ta’ Frenċ since joining in 2003 to take care of office administration. He took on greater responsibility as the owners recognised his potential and commitment, to the point that he has become the perfect person to take on the day-to-day running of the restaurant, from accounts and administration to staffing and maintenance, in short, everything required behind the scenes to create the welcoming ambience of Ta’ Frenċ today. He knows every nook and cranny of the property and regards it as his second home, and the Ta’ Frenċ family as his own family. It is important for him to ensure that everyone is happy at their place of work: “I do my utmost to be a support for the crew both during work and in their personal life. That’s what I believe family is all about and I make sure that just as the original owners treated me, I will treat our team”. When asked what persuaded him to take on the challenge of running the restaurant, Thomas says that he wanted to keep the legacy and heritage of Ta’ Frenċ intact, and move forward with his business partner, Joseph Tabone, in a new chapter for the restaurant. He is a perfectionist: “I always make sure that everything is well-organised and that our customers enjoy the best possible environment whilst they are dining with us”. Of course, no one could possibly contemplate running a restaurant without a serious interest in food and wine. “Rabbit ravioli and Primitivo”, in case you are interested!
Joseph Tabone, Director is a legend in Gozo’s hospitality industry. Restaurant manager at the famed Ta’ Cenc at the age of just twenty two, when he joined Ta’ Frenċ ten years later, his experience was invaluable in the running of the restaurant with Executive Chef Mario Schembri. Wine is Joseph’s passion, and he never stops studying. He is particularly fond of Alsace, where he spent some time at L’Auberge de l’Ill with the famous sommelier Serge Dubs. Together with the original owners’ enthusiasm for collecting fine wine and their creation of the spectacular cellar to house it, Ta’ Frenċ has won many awards for its wine list, in no small part thanks to Joseph. When he is not exploring the origins of some obscure bush wine, or working on his latest majestic wine list, he is committed to creating a front-of-house team who share his values and dedication. Joseph regards Ta’ Frenċ as his home, not even his second home, he says. He knows every client by name, even if they only visit once a year; some say Joseph is Ta’ Frenċ’s data-base. He derives great satisfaction from clients returning time and again, treating him as a friend and calling him Joseph. In turn, he aims to remember their likes and dislikes and to convey this to the kitchen. With this level of commitment and his calm personality he is the ideal person to share the direction of Ta’ Frenċ today. It’s no use asking Joseph his favourite wine; ‘all of it’ he would say. But no-one watching him carve the Chateaubriand at the table, or expertly sautéeing a steak Diane on the flambé trolley would doubt that he is very fond of la viande.
Joseph Brincat, Executive Chef may be the youngest member of the team, but his enthusiasm and dedication is second to none. “The kitchen is my passion. You cannot learn the job overnight. You need to be dedicated to this industry as it requires a lot of sacrifices, but it brings with it a lot of satisfaction, such as seeing our clients enjoying my food and sharing moments around a table with their friends and loved ones”. According to Chef Brincat, “the secret ingredient in our work is the love and passion we put into it, the emotions that stimulate your senses and the pleasure that gives our customers”. Food has been his passion since he left school, when he began a certificate course in cooking at the ITS, coming to Ta’ Frenċ on a student placement at the age of just sixteen. Cooking and studying went hand in hand, culminating in a BA (Hons) in Culinary Arts. He counts himself fortunate to have benefitted from the mentoring of former Executive Chef Mario Schembri, and recognises that these are big shoes to fill. “Ta Frenċ gave me a lot of opportunities”, he says “and I was always backed up and supported, not only in my work, but also personally. We are family here, and all the help and support I found is incredible. I am grateful for the investment that the owners made in me to enable me to grow my career, which today has led me to the role of executive chef of this amazing restaurant. A restaurant that is a landmark, an icon on our small island of Gozo – well-known locally and with foreign customers”. As well as the UK, Joseph has also worked at L’Auberge de l’Ill in Alsace and studied at the Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon. Perhaps not surprisingly Chef Brincat enjoys classic French cuisine, and after dinner, he says, ” a glass of port wine and some nice cheese fulfil my day”. His own style of cooking can best be described as cuisine d’auteur, a highly individual approach, neither formulaic nor imitative. His cured salmon, for example, is a true gastronomic delight; sometimes cured with blueberries, sometimes with black treacle, and with Islay malt whisky for the traditional Ta’ Frenċ annual Burns’ Night dinner.
Early clients were served by Ino and Lino, with classically-trained chef Mario Schembri in the kitchen. The restaurant quickly established a reputation as the place to dine on Gozo, becoming famous for its flambé dishes, steak Diane, pasta with prawns and crepes Suzette, but also for the classics in the fine dining tradition such as Chateaubriand for two carved at the table, and richly sauced dishes. Many of Ta’ Frenċ’s early clients have remained faithful to what has now become an internationally renowned restaurant.
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As well as a chef, Frances is an award-winning writer, the author of many books, and countless newspaper columns, in Britain and abroad. Many in Gozo and Malta will know of her through her writing for The Sunday Times of Malta and Taste Magazine.
“Gozo is a treasure trove for any cook”, says Frances. “I love cooking here in all seasons, and appreciate beyond measure that so much of the food is local, from the wonderful vegetables to the exceptional fish”. Frances has always encouraged us to use local, seasonal produce wherever possible. She also recognises the importance of introducing a ‘sense of place’ to what we offer our diners, to let them know from the flavours on their plate that they are on Gozo; “food should tell you where you are”, she says.