Christian Mailloux

Christian Mailloux, Chef & Owner of Red Fire Grille

Christian MaillouxIf Chef Christian Mailloux and his wife, Dawn, can teach etiquette to first graders and get Texans to appreciate tiny French appetizers, it’s no surprise their Red Fire Grille has become a top East Texas dining destination in just three years. “This town is noted for plastic trays, paper-wrapped silverware and plastic cups,” Christian says fondly of Palestine, also noted for its spring dogwoods and outdoor recreation.

Christian was preparing for the next day’s etiquette tea, where he planned to serve cut-out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with cloth napkins and teach the 6- and 7-year-olds how to properly use silverware. A few weeks later the owner of California’s Toad Hollow Vineyards, Francine “Frankie” Williams was visiting for a five-course wine dinner. The vineyard’s founder, Frankie’s late husband Todd “Dr. Toad” Williams, was the late Robin Williams’ half brother. Christian said events like these, often hosted on days when the restaurant is closed, have made Red Fire Grille a fixture in the community, along with a sophisticated menu and stellar service. “It’s a high level of service, it’s ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen,” he says.

Mailloux moved to Texas from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where, as the general manager and executive chef of the Lenox Club, he transformed it into a premier destination social and dining club. Before that, he worked in country club settings from North Carolina and Tennessee to Florida and St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. After three years in the Berkshires, Christian and Dawn were ready to open their own restaurant when they found the perfect location in Texas, not far from Dawn’s family.

Mailloux has elevated mid-Texas dining to unprecedented levels, with one of the state’s most comprehensive wine lists and a menu that features regional favorites like fried alligator alongside novelties like amuse bouche, artful bite-sized hors d’ouevres originally from France. Christian said he has customers who drive two hours from Dallas for a meal. “In three years time we’ve quickly become the destination restaurant that people come to from all over the state,” he says.

Dawn, who runs the front of the house, says her husband is fond of amuse-bouche and created a gelee with white grape juice for a special Valentine’s dinner. Another creation combines The Perfect Purée Pink Guava with Campari-soaked Cara Cara oranges and whipped goat cheese. “The flavors combined are complex but complimentary,” Dawn says. “East Texans are wary but brave so everyone tries it and loves it. They are mostly put off by the one bite in the spoon.”

Christian says he has been a fan of The Perfect Purée’s flavors since the late 1980s when he discovered them as a chef at the Meadows Golf & Country Club in Sarasota, Florida. He used the purees in sauces and salad dressings when he was a student at the Culinary Institute of America and continues to appreciate their range of classic and exotic flavors.

I’ve had The Perfect Purée in every kitchen I’ve ever worked in and introduced them to a number of people. I think the company gives me and other chefs a broad spectrum of flavors to work with and it’s grown to the point that I can say, ‘Yes, get me that Tamarind.’

Christian uses The Perfect Purée at the bar in original martinis and a classic version of a Hurricane he created for Palestine’s annual Taste of New Orleans food and wine event. Favorite desserts include a green apple spiced creme brûlée with The Perfect Purée Green Apple and a flourless chocolate truffle with Pink Guava and Passion Fruit. “It’s that combination of sweet and tart that goes with the chocolate really well,” he says. He points out that home cooks appreciate the purees too, and he buys Blood Orange for a local hair dresser who’s a regular customer at the Red Fire Grille. “She freezes it into ice cube trays and makes herself a Blood Orange rum drink with Grand Marnier,” he says.

Recipe by Chef Christian Mailloux

Pink Guava Amuse-Bouche
Blood Orange Martini