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By Elena Kadvany

Menlo Park's Bistro Vida gets a Michelin-starred French chef

Uploaded: Jun 2, 2015

Here's a first: A Michelin-starred chef from Paris is coming to Menlo Park this month to work a two-year stint at downtown French restaurant Bistro Vida.

Marine Thomas of La Rollange, a French tapas bar in Montmartre (sister restaurant to a well-known restaurant named La Table d'Eugène), will touch down in the United States June 5.

Chef Marine Thomas. Photo courtesy of Thomas.

Almost two years ago, on a friend's recommendation, Bistro Vida owner Ali Elsafy went to La Rollange and "left blown away," he said.

"I went almost every night to eat," he recently recalled.

Elsafy has since returned many times and became friends with Thomas, who for many years had wanted to work in the United States, she said. She was initially looking for a job in New York, but then met Elsafy and the stars aligned.

More than eight months ago, as Elsafy started plotting changes for the Santa Cruz Avenue restaurant, they started a laborious visa process to get Thomas here. Outside of menu tweaks, the most significant change for the restaurant in ever-sleepy downtown Menlo Park might be a plan to keep Bistro Vida open until 11 p.m., serving wine pairings and simple late-night food.

Thomas started working at La Table d'Eugène in 2009 with chef Geoffroy Maillard. After two years, Maillard opened La Rollange and asked her to be the chef there.

Thomas said her philosophy in the kitchen is to always cook with love "because if you cook with love, we always get good food," she wrote in an email. She "does not have a special way of cooking" but instead develops dishes based on seasonal produce. She'll fit right in in the Bay Area. She plans to offer a menu "suited to the region" that highlights California products, she said.

"She's going to be something really good for Menlo Park," Elsafy said.