In Good Company- Philippe Forcioli
Photograph by Nels Akerlund Photography + Video
Peak Sports Club
4401 Peak Dr., Loves Park
Since 1991, Philippe Forcioli has been among the most prominent players in Rockford's fine-dining industry.
GreenFire, his most recent venture, opened in 2012 after a dramatic makeover that belies its former existence as a chain restaurant - room dividers made from custom ironwork and unmilled trunks of birch trees, an enormous granite bar and a pastry case well stocked with showy delicacies. The kitchen features brick and wood-fired ovens, and you won't find a microwave or deep fryer.
On a recent night, customers could order a standard menu item like the grass-fed burger for $10 or the daily special: bison chops for two for $79. Cafe Patou, the French-Italian bistro that made Forcioli locally famous, at various times served lion, black bear, caribou, wild boar and alligator.
"Hardly a day goes by that someone doesn't come in here and say, 'Cafe Patou! We miss it!'" Forcioli says. "I like to push the envelope. I want guests to walk out and say, 'Wow. This was really amazing.'"
Before coming to the United States, Forcioli cooked aboard the storied Orient Express luxury train. For the last 12 years, he has organized private parties at the annual Sundance Film Festival for clients including Kevin Costner, Bruce Willis and Paris Hilton.
Another secret to Forcioli's success? He is, after all, an authentic French-born-and-trained chef whose accent remains thick but whose personality challenges the stereotype.
Jokes Forcioli: "People say, 'Oh. You're nice. You're not screaming.' I don't like all that screaming - that's why I left France."
(Written by Mark Bonne)