For amateur chef Kenny Francoeur, performing in ‘The Book of Mormon’ is just one of his passions
JONANNA WIDNER | Contributing Writer
Imagine you were an integral part of the cast of a very popular Broadway musical. What kind of talents would you possess? Stellar dance skills? A golden soprano? The ability to make a perfect béchamel sauce?
Yeah, that last one may not quite match the usual skill set. But for Kenny Francoeur, the dance captain of The Book of Mormon, cooking is just part and parcel of his multi-talented persona. So much so, in fact, that when he’s not rehearsing or performing, Francoeur is busy conjuring up gourmet goodies for himself and his castmates as they travel across the country. Francoeur’s blog The Long-Distance Kitchen chronicles it all — recipes, stories and insights, all delivered with a dash or two of his signature sass. “I will always capitalize the C in Croissant,” he says for example in a recent entry, “because these pastries deserve the same respect and honor as our deities.”
Baking those little deities is difficult enough. Francoeur manages to bake them in the tiny kitchens of his hotel suite or, if he’s lucky, an Air BnB. “I’m really grateful the hotels have kitchens at all,” he said during a recent phone interview. “But they are usually under-supplied. And the oven and fridge might be pieces of junk.” He makes up for it by traveling with a trunk full of pots, pans and other equipment. “At one point I was bringing along an entire Kitchenaid standing mixer,” he says. Often he’ll create a recipe based on where he travels — when Mormon was in Chicago, he made deep dish pizza; a trip to Paris inspired his Magret de Canard — replete with video demonstrations.
A typical work day for Francoeur starts at 1 p.m. with a four-hour rehearsal. As dance captain, he’s is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the show’s choreography — he must be at all rehearsals, and he’s responsible not just for his own dancing but for his fellow cast members as well. There’s a dinner break at 5 p.m., and then the show begins at 7. He’s usually not back to his room until 1 a.m. This is break time; often he cooks until four in the morning. Recently, however, Francoeur says he’s trying to shift his schedule and get up early rather than staying up late.
Either way, such a packed schedule can lead to some goofs. Francoeur recalls a time when a friend asked if they could bake a pie together for someone’s birthday. They worked for a while together, and when it got late Francoeur told the friend, “’You go to bed. I’ve got the rest covered.’” Francoeur then promptly fell asleep as the pie cooked in the oven overnight. “We had spent all this time, making the crust, the filling,” he says with a laugh, “and eight hours later we had a carbon brick of cherry pie. I felt so bad!”
When he’s not cooking, creating recipes, rehearsing or performing, Francoeur is writing (not just his blog; his recent essay in the Advocate is an insightful look into the racism inherent in digital dating scenarios). He credits his upbringing for his diverse skills… and for his performance career.
“As the youngest I was always trying to get attention, always being the little clown,” he says. His parents channeled that energy by enrolling him in children’s theater, which lead to acting in high school. “But I was determined to be a history teacher,” he says. “But my parents wanted me to give acting a shot. They forced my hand.”
His parents have always been supportive, he says. “We’ve never been ones to put ourselves in boxes. It made it very easy to explore different kinds of performance.”
With support like that, it’s no wonder he views even The Book of Mormon — known primarily for its edginess — from a gentler perspective. “When people hear about it, they hear about the crass language, and yes, everything you’ve heard is true,” he says. “But it’s also heartwarming. It’s really important that it’s shared in the world we live in, encouraging acceptance, honesty, helping others. All that is in the middle of this crass little story written by those South Park guys. I know that’s what they intended.”
Now through Jan. 27 at Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth. 817-212-4280. www.basshall.com
Jan 29-Feb 3 at Fair Park Music Hall. 1-800-745-3000. www.dallassummermusicals.org