We are embarrassed to admit that we didn’t note one of the most personally interesting aspects of Chef Roland Liccioni’s return to Les Nomades, where he was chef from 1999 to 2004— the fact that the person hiring him is his ex-wife Mary Beth Liccioni, whom he met when they worked at Carlos in the 1980s. Yesterday was his first day on the job, so we were a little surprised to run into Mary Beth Liccioni at an event last night, far from her restaurant. “Oh, I’d never worry when Roland is in the kitchen,” she said.
We asked if Roland intended to change anything about the menu. “Well, he’s coming in and he knows the kitchen is stocked with certain things, he’s not going to completely change things at the beginning,” she said. “We had a test dinner for a group, the Chevaliers of Burgundy, and the menu was set. But he looked at it and said, maybe we do this or that sauce a little different. The bigger changes will come in time.”
Why did you decide you wanted him to come back? we asked. “We looked at some very promising candidates, young chefs, who would have been very good,” she said. “But a restaurant like this, it needed someone who could just step in. Who understands how a French restaurant like this works. Roland and I always worked well together, going back before we were married, at Carlos. Well, his French accent is still very thick, so sometimes he’ll say a bunch of stuff in a flurry, and I have to translate it, tell everyone what they need to do.”
Given that Roland Liccioni had often worked on Asian-influenced projects in recent years (notably Le Lan), we asked if she expected any of that to make its way onto the menu at Les Nomades. “Oh, he always cooked Asian food at home,” she said. “Both his parents did, they were very good cooks. You know that he’s part Vietnamese, though he moved to France when he was two. But at home, they cooked Asian food all the time. I think a lot of chefs, it’s very popular to use Asian flavors, but it’s just kind of added in. I think Roland really feels them, and that Asian influence shows itself in his food.”