Sophie Nathal always intended to keep her French roots close, but never could’ve predicted exactly how that would evolve.
By Hannah Nuñez.
In 2011, Sophie Nathal made the move from Paris to Miami, and her life forever changed as a result. The transition was rough, but Sophie soon met her husband, Eric, and immediately found a sense of home in his culture’s warmth. One night after a bottle of wine, Sophie recalls going back and forth with Eric, who was born and raised in Mexico, about the French and Hispanic food that surrounded them growing up.
Between them, they shared everything from the sound of crisp baguettes to the smell of fresh tortillas in great detail, and without even realizing it, they’d painted an entire picture of a dream restaurant that perfectly combined the couple’s passion for food. The next morning, they began their journey of making that dream into reality and can now revel in their years of hard work and success.
Austin Rotisserie first started as a pop-up in 2018 but has evolved into both a brick-and-mortar (opened in 2021) and a food truck. The menu includes everything from specially imported French bread to cultural fusions, like its Kinda French Quesadilla, and only continues to grow as its customer base does. The restaurant prides itself on its traditional French comfort food and stands as a symbol of how all walks of life can be brought together by a warm meal.
How did your relationship with food change when you moved to the States?
Everything was really different. Things that used to be so accessible to me were no longer within my reach, and that took some getting used to. I couldn’t walk down the street to shop at my favorite French bakeries or buy everyday products at the grocery store anymore. Even the items that I could get here were so different. The yogurts have a different consistency and the bread is made with a different type of flour; it was the little things that threw me off. At first, the huge Latin influence in Miami overwhelmed me, but eventually, I embraced this whole new umbrella of food that I’ve come to love.
Being surrounded by Hispanic culture was also a good reminder of home because there’s a lot of overlap in how we view food. For both cultures, food is a love language, something that brings people together and fills people’s spirits, but I’ve come to learn that belief isn’t as prioritized for many Americans. Going to Cuban bakeries was the closest I could get to home, because no matter what, they always had that freshly made quality that I love. Once I got the hang of it, I definitely started to enjoy going to local restaurants a lot more.
Can you talk a little bit about the dish you’re sharing?
I chose a quiche as the main dish because they’re absolutely delicious and very easy to make. Once you have the base down, it becomes so versatile and easy to personalize any way you want. You can add meats, vegetables and cheeses; the only thing you can’t do with it is make it vegan because it wouldn’t exactly be a quiche at that point. The side dish is salade de chèvre chaud (warm goat cheese salad), a very popular French salad that perfectly complements the quiche.
How is this dish personal for you?
This dish is the epitome of French comfort food for me. Growing up I would always make quiche with my mom; she would prepare the base, and it was my job to get all of the add-ins ready. It’s a cheap and easy recipe that to this day reminds me of home. When I wasn’t making it at home, I was buying it on the go from bakeries. When it’s sold, they cut it into triangles and wrap it up in butcher paper so you can easily just eat it while you’re walking down the street. Regardless, the dish carries such a warmth to it that feels homemade every time it’s shared.
What does the phrase “comfort food” mean to you?
I have an appreciation for the phrase because I’ve found that no matter where you go, it holds the same weight. Whether I’m in Paris or Texas, I will always be able to share this idea of comfort within a dish. Obviously, everyone has their own specific comfort food, so to narrow it down is really difficult. The first thing I notice is what it looks like, how it smells and what the taste is. All of those things have the power to bring you back to a specific point in time or jolt a certain memory that, all in all, brings relief. For me, a dish is automatically classified as a comfort food when I feel like I’m getting a big hug and taken back to a safe place. Because food is so connecting for me, I strive to make every one of my dishes at Austin Rotisserie someone’s comfort food because that level of content should be the standard. If a course has the ability to bring such joy and peace, why shouldn’t every meal be a comfort food?
Vegetable Quiche with Salade de Chèvre Chaud (Warm Goat Cheese Salad)
Warm Goat Cheese Salad
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups baby arugula
2-ounce wheel goat cheese, skin on (I use aged bijou cheese from Vermont Creamery)
1 piece sliced brioche sandwich bread, cut in half into triangles
Honey, for drizzling
4 carrots, diced
1 bunch of broccolini, stalks removed
3/4 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup Swiss cheese, shredded
1/2 cup gruyere cheese, shredded
1 tomato, diced
10-inch store-bought pie crust (Feel free to make your own if you have time!)
Prepare the salad and toast:
- Preheat the oven to 375°.
- For the vinaigrette: In a mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, Dijon mustard and vinegar, and add salt and pepper, to taste.
- Put arugula into a bowl and toss with vinaigrette.
- Cut the goat cheese wheel in half. Place one half on top of each triangle of the bread. Place in the oven for 5 minutes or until toasted.
- Drizzle the toast and goat cheese with honey.
Prepare the quiche:
- Preheat the oven to 375°.
- Boil broccolini florets and carrots until tender, about 8 minutes. (The pre-dicing will allow the vegetables to cook faster in the boiling water.)
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the creme fraiche, Swiss, gruyere and eggs until fully incorporated.
- Add carrots and broccolini into egg and cheese mixture, and pour into premade pie crust.
- Place quiche in the oven for 45 minutes, or until the quiche is firm but still wobbly.
- Let cool for 1 hour before serving, or put in the fridge for 15 minutes before serving.
- Slice quiche and serve on a plate with the salad and warm goat cheese toast.