Hell's Culinarian

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"Lord love a duck, he just wants to get out of here," says Catherine Fotre of her feisty chef husband Francois, who made a name for himself with killer Vichyssoise, a cold summer-slap watermelon soup spiffed with Schnapps, and a tomato fanaticism that frightened produce suppliers (Dallas needs more such fears). Now Fotre is tied, literally, to a hospital bed: At 11:30 a.m. on March 8, while traveling the southbound Highway 121 service road on his Harley heading to work at the Catalina Room, a car pulled in front of him. The helmeted Fotre squeezed the brakes and was thrown into the grassy space separating the service road and the highway.

"He was awake at the scene, and he had the brains -- the brains? wrong word -- the mind to say, 'I need to go to Parkland,'" says Catherine, who adds that Francois suffered cerebral hemorrhaging and unspecified neurological damage. But she adds that he can move his limbs and head. He was able to leave the intensive unit yesterday.

Fotre opened the French bistro La Mirabelle in early 1997 before selling it to chef Joseph Maher in 2001. His quest was to spread culinary sophistication to Little Elm (where he ran for mayor), and he opened Cafe C there in the summer of 2002, only to shutter it 18 months later. Catherine says they were in the process of raising money for a new bistro concept either in downtown Dallas or in the north suburbs when his Harley bucked him.

"It's been pretty sucky," she says. "It just wears your butt out."

More suckiness: The Fotre's have no health insurance. Catherine says she attempted to set up a charitable bank account called Friends of Francois to help defray mounting medical bills, but she says banks rebuffed her on account of all of the charity fraud in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. So she is planning a fundraising dinner. If you can help, write Catherine Fotre, P.O. Box 871, Little Elm, Texas, 75068 or e-mail her here.

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