Monsieur Marcel turns 30? Mais oui!

| August 31, 2023 | 0 Comments

STEPHANE AND KATY STROUK at Roxy & Jo’s Seafood Grill & Oyster Bar.

The Original Farmers Market has always been a great resource for our community, with multiple food stalls, fresh produce and arguably more varieties of hot sauce than anywhere else on the planet. But if one wants a stick of salted French butter, a selection of fine cheeses, a platter of fresh-shucked oysters, a perfectly plated coq au vin or a whole rock fish to grill at home, Monsieur Marcel’s mini-empire, which celebrates its 30th anniversary Sept. 30, has your back with a gourmet market, French bistro, seafood market and Roxy & Jo’s Seafood Grill & Oyster Bar.

How this French multi-pronged business came to settle in at the Original Farmers Market involves a complicated journey. Monsieur Marcel owners Katy and Stephane Strouk met in a cafe in Paris when Katy, an American student, was backpacking through Europe the summer after her junior year in college. Stephane, a native of France, raised in both the south of France and Paris, had quit his corporate job and planned to travel until his savings ran out, starting in Los Angeles. Katy, who lived in Orange County with her parents, told him to call when he arrived in the U.S. When he did, she invited him and his five travel companions to come crash with her family. Instead of traveling the world, he stayed for months. Instead of finishing college, she moved to Paris with him, where Katy got a job at Ford Models Paris and Stephane worked for his family’s contemporary art gallery. They visited Southern California periodically, most notably for their wedding. During one visit in 1989, the Strouks met a friend for coffee at the Original Farmers Market. The city had always seemed impersonal to Stephane Strouk, but the farmers market reminded him of “a little town in a big town.”

The Strouks started to feel constrained by the lack of opportunities in France and, in 1993, moved back to Los Angeles to pursue the American Dream. Stephane remembered how much the Farmers Market had reminded him of his Paris neighborhood, where people knew each other and talked to one another. They felt at home and decided to put down roots at the corner of Third and Fairfax. They opened a crêperie in 1993, followed by the Mr. Marcel cheese counter in 1994, named ironically for Stephane’s dad, who absolutely hated cheese.

They have overseen many changes in their 30 years of doing business in the market. They no longer run the crêperie (although, several owners later, it still exists) and in, 1995, they took over a failed grocery store, incorporating the cheese counter into the Monsieur Marcel Gourmet Market. In 2001-2002, the market was renovated, and the French Bistro opened, the only sit-down, white tablecloth, full-service restaurant within the main Farmers Market area. The gourmet market stocks more than 6,000 products imported from around the world. The Strouks take three buying trips a year, attending fancy food shows and, as Katy Strouk explains, “We work with a lot of artisans who don’t produce enough for big stores.” For example, they stock a rich chocolate bar they discovered in Tahiti and, “We hand carry back strawberry jam made by two women in France’s Normandy region.”

In a nod to Stephane Strouk’s time eating fresh fish in the South of France, when Tusquellas Sea Foods’ owner Bob Tusquellas was ready to retire, Monsieur Marcel Seafood Market was born. Fresh-caught fish and seafood is delivered there daily, as well as to the Strouks’ newest enterprise, Roxy & Jo’s Seafood Grill & Oyster Bar, opened in 2020. Named for their daughters Roxanne, 22, and Josephine, 14, customers sit at the counter to enjoy such fare as fish and chips, lobster rolls and oysters. According to Katy Strouk, they shuck more than 2,000 oysters a week.

With four successful businesses within arms length of each other at the Original Farmers Market, and even a Monsieur Marcel counter in the Original Farmers Market section in Terminal 5 at Los Angeles International Airport, do Katy and Stephane Strouk plan to celebrate their 30-year anniversary with any new enterprises? “We have no plans,” assures Katy, “But we’re always open. Stephane loves to open businesses.”

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Category: Entertainment

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