Tales: Riviera Maya: The proprietors of La Brocherie: ‘one of the best meals we had ever had’

Editor’s note: Bruce Bouchard, former executive director of The Paramount Theatre, and his partner Maureen McKenna Padula have traveled from Rutland to the Riviera Maya for the past three years. This series covers adventures, food, and testimonials from Vermont to the tropics.

If, as most of us know, “Boots on the Ground” is the measure of success for a restaurant. By that metric, this married couple (chefs, owners, or operators) is a sterling silver example in Mexico or anywhere.

I sat with Fabian Jankill Setrouk for a lively conversation in a wide open storefront brocherie that he owns with his wife Teresita (Tere’) Medina Corrales on a bustling avenue in Playa. He is an excitable, passionate Frenchman, born in Paris to a couple who owned a number of restaurants. He grew up in and around the hurlybury kitchen culture of France, led by volatile chefs and submissive staff.

He told me that “while as only a teenager, his passions ranged from cooking to wildlife management.” 

“Wait, Fabian… What is wildlife management?” I asked.

“Wildlife management is the art and science of reaching goals by manipulating and/or maintaining wildlife populations,” he explained.

He spent some time in this space, but luckily, his primary passion returned to helping to maintain human populations by cooking brilliant food. With the mission of helping to correctly diagnose problems with French wild animals coming to an end, he turned his laser focus to owning and operating a restaurant and opened his first at the age of 22, “La vie Parisienne,” in Paris.

At the same time, his future wife, Tere Corrales, was living in Spain and developed a passion for European food. Ten years later, she opened her first catering business in Buenos Aires, where she blended her love of Italian food with the delicious flavors of her Mexican ancestry in Monterrey.

By Bruce Bouchard
Fabian Jankill Setrouk and Teresita Medina Corrales, owners of La Brocherie, (pictured bottom left with daughter Sharon)opened a restaurant in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, focusing on French cuisine. Setrouk, a chef from Paris, and Tere, from Buenos Aires, blend their cultures in their cuisine at La Brocherie.

Setrouk moved to New York City and was involved with a restaurant for 10 years. The specialty of the house was food from Gascony, in the southwest of France. As irony and fate would have it, both Setrouk and Corrales happened to be vacationing in Playa del Carmen and staying at the same hotel. Two loves bloomed during that time: one for each other and the other for Playa. They quickly hatched a plan to open a restaurant and set about changing their lives — Corrales back to her original culture (she was born and raised in Monterrey) and Fabian to a wholly new culture.

“I knew nothing of Mexico; I did not speak Spanish, and my energy was completely opposite to this calm, laid-back ethos,” he said, adding, “Tere took care of that in a hurry.” 

They settled in 2014 in a perfect location in the center of Playa. In the beginning, they started as a takeout spot. The response to the gastronomy of two cultures was immediate, and people began to press the couple for the ability to come there to sit down and eat. At first, they added a couple of plastic tables, then a few more, and expanded over time to the distinctive red checked tablecloths, square wooden tables, and sturdy white wooden chairs that immediately identify La Brocherie! 

“What was the measure of your success?” I asked.

“Tere and I agreed immediately that we would become the area specialists of one thing—the perfect roasted chicken French style,” he explained.

And that they did. Today you can experience the flavors of France in their “specialite de la maison,” delicious roasted chicken! Their chicken is marinated in pineapple for many hours, then slow-roasted with herbs from Provence and served with salsa picante — a fusion of the spices of Mexico and the delicacy of France. (And, dear reader, should you choose to investigate their reviews online — I stopped at 50 — you will note that people from all over the world have verified that their product is “the very best roasted chicken to be found…anywhere.”)

While chicken is their staple (full, half, and quarter roasted with cordon bleu, and other variants available), they branch out with daily specials, including moules marinieres, salmon carpaccio, and beef bourguignon, to name just a few. A full complement of homemade desserts will finish perfectly: crème brules, chocolate mousse, chocolate volcano, and panacotta of vanilla with strawberry and lemon tart. 

When Maureen and I first came to Playa, we found it and responded immediately as one of the best meals we had ever had. The French always offer the very best salads to be found, rice that came directly from heaven, and they have a secret: they (the French half) always find the best butter you will ever taste, and they guard that secret with their lives. Their pricing (which has not changed since our first visit three years ago) is stunning: two cocktails each, two full meals, and a shared dessert came to $60 with a tip!

Setrouk takes pride in the family culture he and Corrales have created for their staff. “I was taught by Tere to soften my style with the staff (yelling and screaming is central to the culture of the French kitchen; chefs rule with fists of iron) and to build families with a velvet touch and always positive reinforcement,” he said.

On any given evening, you can see this philosophy in action. Setrouk is anywhere, everywhere, all at once, managing the always hectic demand for seating, taking orders, delivering orders, cashing out, and handling the patrons with adroit authenticity. He knows the names of all his regulars; hugs and kisses start and end any visit. He is a class act with none of the pretensions and airs of the traditional French chef (other than excitability, which is mostly contained in his elaborate descriptions of the food to patrons). His utter authenticity shimmers at every moment.

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