As I settle into a table at Le Bilboquet looking out at the Knox Street neighborhood, the restaurant’s founder, Stephan Courseau, tells me he has held almost every job in the industry. He arrived from France in 1987 without knowing a word of English and started out as a dishwasher in New York City. He confesses that his gregarious personality is more suited for front of house, and has spent more than 30 years in various leadership roles in hospitality.
I order the popular Cajun Chicken, which is served with pommes frites and a side of beurre blanc, while Courseau opts for the Lobster Pasta. After working with famed restaurateurs such as Alain Ducasse and Daniel Boulud, Courseau founded his own group—Travis Street Hospitality, named for the street where all three of his Dallas restaurants are located. Along with the iconic Le Bilboquet, they include French bistro Up on Knox and Georgie, which combines a butcher shop with fine dining in celebrity chef Curtis Stone’s first non-Los Angeles-based venue.
Courseau moved to Dallas in 2010 and was immediately taken with the city’s appetite for authentic French cuisine. After licensing the Le Bilboquet name and luring chef MoMo Sow from his original location in New York, the eatery opened its doors in 2013. Courseau selected Travis Street due to its location between University Park and Uptown, figuring it would be a popular and convenient gathering place. Like its predecessor on the Upper East Side, Le Bilboquet’s location in the Knox Street neighborhood brings people of diverse backgrounds together.
In the mid-2010s, when Courseau was offered an opportunity to open a second Le Bilboquet location in Plano’s Legacy West, he opted instead to focus closer to home. He and his wife, Daniele, created the Parisian street café concept Up on Knox, which opened in 2017, three days after the birth of their second child. For the third restaurant, Georgie, which opened in 2019, Courseau wanted to bring a more elevated concept to the neighborhood.
Each of his three restaurants is located mere blocks from one another. “People appreciate options,” Courseau says. “They know the quality and consistency of food will be there, but they can enjoy different ambiances and experiences.”
The restaurateur deviates from the norm by offering employees paid sick leave, vacation time, and healthcare benefits. With many in the food service industry fighting to retain talent, Courseau has no such problem. “I think we have very little turnover because people feel that working here is more than a job,” he says. “There’s this culture that we are building for our employees.”
When it comes to management, he subscribes to the school of thought Danny Meyer wrote about in Setting the Table: The Transforming Powers of Hospitality in Business. His first priority, he says, is to his investors, ensuring his restaurants are turning a profit. Next is an emphasis on the well-being of employees. Providing a quality experience for diners comes third. “The customer isn’t always right,” Courseau says. “If you treat your employees well, that automatically translates into a memorable experience for your customers, too.”