Beth Furgurson Photo
This month, Chef Alain Lecomte celebrates two things: the five-year anniversary of his classical French restaurant, Chez Max, and his renewed health.
In March 2006, the Le Mans, France-born gourmet was diagnosed with both lung and neck cancers. Chemotherapy and radiation followed, but Lecomte's recovery didn't last long: "I had both cancers twice," he says. In September and October 2007, after returning from a vacation to his native country, Lecomte underwent surgeries at the VCU Medical Center.
During his recovery, Lecomte relied on his staff and his wife, Annie, to run the West End restaurant. "I came every day to the kitchen," Lecomte notes, although he rested in the evenings. He adds that he's thankful for the employees, medical team and customers who helped see him through such trying times.
Pleasing the customer is the cornerstone of Lecomte's cooking: "I like the pressure of the service," he explains. "Every day, it's a competition [between] you and your customer. I feel very happy when the service is over."
Lecomte began his professional culinary career in Paris, and in 1992, he and his family moved to the United States. For the next 10 years, he ran the restaurant at Prince Michel Vineyard and Winery in Leon, Va., north of Charlottesville, before coming to Richmond to launch Chez Max, named after his son. Lecomte is a Master Chef of France, inducted into the elite Les Maîtres Cuisiniers de France in 2000.
"I love cooking, and since I've been sick, it's a better feeling to cook," Lecomte says. He visits his doctor for a checkup every month, and he gets a scan every six months. "I'm feeling very well," Lecomte says, adding that he now runs daily.
Lecomte is at work preparing new house specialties for the spring. He says he especially likes to cook seafood, so be on the lookout for fruits de mer on upcoming menus. However, he says, "Everything the customer enjoys to eat, I like to cook."
Chez Max is located at 10622 Patterson Ave. For more information, call 754-3464 or visit chezmaxva.com.