I have loved desserts my whole life. I started baking as soon as my parents let me. Because I was brought up in a European household, only fresh ingredients were available. If you wanted something to eat you had to make it. My summers were filled with trips to the store and afternoons of baking, and then devouring, by me and my 4 siblings. My Belgian born father Don Coulon was at this time a computer scientist but was also becoming very well known for his culinary skills in San Diego. The church spaghetti dinners had turned into feasts of Boeuf Bourguignon and Coq au Vin. He had learned about cooking from his mother Anne-Marie Defays who had been a professional chef.
During my high school years our family moved to Paris. We traveled to my father’s home in Liege and had many amazing meals with his family. My fondest memories are of his mother Anne-Marie’s Belgian waffles and fruit pies. My mother Arlene attended a French cooking school and taught me all the pastry-making skills she was learning. We spent many an hour taking turns whipping ingredients by hand in our Paris apartment. I realized how good desserts could be. She started talking about opening a dessert shop when we returned to San Diego. One day my Dad said “Why don’t we just open a restaurant?!” That is how the Belgian Lion Restaurant started. I was attending school to be a computer scientist but also started making the desserts for our new restaurant. I did work in the computer field running back and forth to the restaurant everyday often baking in high heels and office attire. I finally quit my computer job, working at the restaurant as hostess, waitress, sous-chef, etc until I had enough dessert business to pay the bills.
Our family ran the restaurant for 25 years until my parents retired. I then opened Michele Coulon Dessertier. My son Nathan who grew up and worked at the Belgian Lion decided to work with me a little and started cooking for us. Along with my brother-in-law “Buddy” Don Ramsdell, my sister Dona, my brother Don, and Nathan’s now wife Kayo, the Belgian Lion started up again on a small scale at Michele Coulon Dessertier. Nathan is now the executive chef at True Food Kitchen in Fashion Valley.
My philosophy: Dessert is not something you eat every day, so make it worth your while….I would rather eat a small piece of something incredible than a lot of something not so great!
Use the best possible ingredients, and the best method in making a dessert. The time it takes cannot be a factor. The final outcome is what counts. It should taste and look amazing but IT HAS TO LOOK EDIBLE! I want guests at a wedding to look at the cake as a beautiful piece of art, but also an edible piece of art, and something they can’t wait to eat!