It’s arguably the best five-star restaurant in North Texas, and it’s all served in the back of a Conoco gas station.
It’s leaded or unleaded outside, rack of lamb or duck à l’orange inside. Not to mention, the country’s best bread pudding, featured on the Food Network’s Diner’s Drive Ins and Dives and Cooking With Paula Deen magazine.
A few weeks ago, I sat down with the owner and head chef behind Chef Point Cafe, Franson Nwaeze.
Growing up in Nigeria, Franson Nwaeze was one of 24 children. As a child he had a love of airplanes and moved to the United States to become a commercial airline pilot, which he did for eight and a half years.
However he couldn’t deny his true passion; food. His first job in the food industry was sparked by a simple bet. A co-worker wagered that Franson could not work in a kitchen as a dishwasher for more than two weeks. Franson took that bet, and while he “found it disgusting,” he served his time and proved his co-worker wrong.
Franson was hooked.
Though he started as a dishwasher, he soon made a deal with the head chef: “I can teach you how to fly if you teach me how to cook.” At this high-end restaurant, The Fountain, Franson honed his skills studying under the best in the business, truly perfecting the art of cooking.
He tried out his new found skills on everyone he could find, from his friends, to his girlfriend… who with a little help from his fabulous cooking, later became his wife.
The Birth of Chef Point Cafe
This husband and wife team searched for a way to open a restaurant in 2001, but with a lack of experience and collateral, lenders were skeptical. The two found out that they were more likely to get a loan for a gas station than a restaurant, and when they found one under construction, they seized the opportunity.
Adding a full kitchen to the plans, Chef Point Cafe was born in the back of a Conoco gas station in Watauga, Texas in 2003, and has since attracted national media attention and hundreds of devoted customers with its eclectic story and fantastic menu.
Listen here as Chef Nwaeze shares the secrets of his tremendous success.
When I lived in the area, I visited Chef Point Cafe almost on a weekly basis and never grew tired of it. I’ve tried everything on the menu, from the blackened stuffed chicken to the escargot and of course, the famous bread pudding.
Words can’t describe the way this dessert tastes. Usually the name bread pudding conjures up images of a mushy, milky texture that is the farthest thing from appetizing. But Chef Nwaeze’s? Simply. Heaven.
Listen as he takes us on a tour of the kitchen, sharing his tips and tricks to making the perfect bread pudding (bear with the audio… it was noisy in the kitchen!).
Fortunately, the secret to Chef Franson’s bread pudding is no longer a secret, as he shared the recipe in Cooking With Paula Deen magazine.
Chef Point Café Bread Pudding
1 (1-pound, 6-ounce) loaf Texas toast bread, divided
1 (15-ounce) loaf French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 cups half-and-half
2 cups milk
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cognac Sauce (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 375°.
Generously spray a deep 13×9-inch baking dish with baking spray.
Layer half of Texas toast slices in bottom of prepared pan. Top with cubed French bread.
In a large bowl, whisk together cream, half-and-half, milk, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Divide mixture in half. Pour half of cream mixture over bread. Lightly press bread with hands, making sure French bread is soaked.
Place remaining Texas toast slices on French bread cubes. Gradually pour remaining cream mixture on Texas toast layer. Press with hands, making sure to soak bread completely.
Spray tops of bread cubes heavily with baking spray. Cover the bread with plastic wrap, then cover with aluminum foil.
Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour water on baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour.Remove from oven, and allow to set in refrigerator for 2 hours.
Reheat in a 300° oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until warm. Cut, and serve topped with Cognac Sauce.
Makes about 13/4 cups
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 cups water, divided
2 tablespoons cognac
Combine butter, sugar, and 11/2 cups water in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil.
Boil until reduced by half, about 25 minutes. Add cognac and remaining 1/2 cup water.
Whisk mixture, and return to a boil. Remove from heat and gradually cool down by whisking.
Chef Point Cafe is the first stop I make when I’m back in Texas, and the number one place I direct my friends to when they’re in the area. You can’t beat the food, the prices, or the service with a smile that comes with every order of their fabulous bread pudding.
If you can’t make it to Watauga, Texas to try it out for yourself, try the recipe here and let me know what you think! It will erase all of your preconceived notions about this delightful dessert.
Make sure you check back next week, I’ll be sharing my recipes for Baker Bettie’s Cookie Wars 2012