Marcel's owner to open gourmet cheese shop in Glen Ellyn

Jill Foucré's grandfather had a tiny, white mustache.

Pardon his passe whiskers, because he was a French chef. And if you're going to be a successful one, you should look the part.

"He was just darling," Foucré said.

Marcel Foucré was known for his jelly-filled omelettes - "the most delicious things you'd ever had in your life" - and his charm. He'd let kids tickle that mustache and then pretend to take a bite out of their little fingers.

"My mother would shake in her boots over having to make him a meal," Jill Foucré said.

He now stands, not so imposing, as a smiling, life-size, black-and-white figure in the window of Foucré's growing business, Marcel's Culinary Experience in Glen Ellyn, named after her grandfather.

Jill Foucré, meanwhile, is preparing to expand to a sister store, a gourmet cheese shop called Marché, four years after she opened Marcel's, a cooking school and retailer.

The latter was born out of a midlife crisis.

"I had a great career, awesome companies that I worked for, beyond my wildest dreams success," said Foucré, a former top executive for a health insurance company. "But I was sleeping in a hotel 250 nights a year. It was grinding. It was really wearing me down."

After her mother's unexpected death at 71, Foucré wanted to make a major career switch.

"I just thought I need to take charge of this, not complain about it," she said. "I don't want to be 60 and look back and say, 'Well, I never did it.'"

Foucré, who enjoys "nothing more than spending an entire day in the kitchen," envisioned a "little recreational cooking school" in Glen Ellyn, where she lives. She knew she had to have a plan, to open a real business that wasn't just a hobby and to hire employees who fill in her "gaps."

"Don't bring in people who are just like you. They make great friends, but they don't challenge you and help you with the things that you aren't as good at," Foucré said.

She became the owner of a historic building, and after gutting the interior, opened Marcel's in 2011.

"The day we opened here was the most rewarding day of my entire professional career, and I had done a lot of big stuff, but it was just like, 'Oh my gosh, look at this.' I thought of it. I came up with a plan. I built it with other people, and it's here."

Marché was born out of a popular refrigerated section Foucré added at Marcel's last year. There, she can only sell packaged cheeses: goat, Brie, Gouda, cheddar.

At Marché, a few doors down in another century-old, Main Street building (the old Environments 2) undergoing renovations, Foucré will offer more than 100 varieties, including big wheels of cheese, the good, smelly, gooey kind.

She hopes to open the second shop this fall at the corner of Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

"For me it's like, 'OK, What am I going to do next?'" Foucré said. "I love to work. I need to be challenged."

With demolition starting in February, the makeover has proved to be a challenge, with crews discovering peeling wallpaper from an old bakery under the walls and making structural repairs.

The exterior has been replaced with new brick that will be painted an indigo blue. Along Pennsylvania Avenue, part of the brick wall has been removed and replaced with big glass windows, providing a more eye-catching southern gateway into downtown, said Meredith Hannah, the village's economic development coordinator. Black awnings and brass letters spelling Marché - French for "market" - lend a more contemporary feel than the flagship, Foucré said.

Inside, cheesemongers will walk customers through three refrigerated cases atop slate gray and white checkered tile. One wall will be devoted to wine. Outdoor seating will allow diners to sample a cheese platter with a glass of vino. They also will be able to order assembled, cheese trays for parties, tools and cold meats.

Those experts - again, filling the "gaps" - will tie in with Marcel's mission to teach cooks of all skill levels. More than 300 classes are held there a year.

"It's a great atmosphere that we've all built together and I think that the community has embraced, so we're really excited about the next adventure," says Kelly Sears, Marcel's executive chef and culinary director.

Like at Marcel's, Foucré has her hand in all the details, spending time Wednesday designing the logo on cheese paper.

Her grandfather was a restaurateur, too, who died when she was a teen. She hangs a picture of him, wearing a white chef's hat, sans mustache, right past the front door at Marcel's.

"I think he'd be very proud of us," she said.

  "I love to work," says Jill Foucré, of expanding to a sister business." I need to be challenged." Bev Horne/
  Jill Foucré, owner of Marcel's Culinary Experience in Glen Ellyn, takes a look at the progress on renovations to a century-old building that will become Marché. Bev Horne/
A rendering shows Marché, a gourmet cheese shop where diners can sample platters with a glass of wine in downtown Glen Ellyn. Courtesy of the village of Glen Ellyn
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