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Supporting Our Friends and Community in a Time of Need

By Monica Pierce

BacquetsWhen Gary Multanen first set foot in Bacquet’s deli in the Boise Towne Square mall in 2008, he had no idea the lifelong friendship – and partnership – that was about to blossom. Gary was in need of a few last minute Christmas gifts when he engaged with the deli owner and world renowned chef, Franck Bacquet.

“I was interested in picking up a few gift certificates for some of my employees but the only denomination he had was $100, which was more than I intended to spend. I learned a lot about Franck right away when he wouldn’t negotiate a lower amount,” Gary recalls with a smile.

A year after their initial meeting, during a regular visit to Bacquet’s deli, Gary mentioned to Franck that his daughter was engaged. Rather than offering, Franck told Gary he would cater the event and Gary didn’t argue. To this day, guests of his daughter’s wedding still comment on the delectable food.

In 2015, fate took this blossoming friendship further. Gary and his wife, Susie, stopped in at Angell’s Bar and Grill in downtown Boise where Franck was working as a chef. The Multanens met Franck’s new fiancee, Michele, who immediately connected with Gary as they learned they were both from neighboring small towns in northern Oregon.

A few years later, when the Bacquets opened their restaurant in Eagle in June 2018, they quickly developed a loyal customer base and the Multanens of course became one of their many regular customers. But the couples’ friendship still deepened further.

As a long-time supporter and current board member and Treasurer of a non-profit called Project Amigo, Gary is passionate about the foundation’s mission to support the education of disadvantaged and marginalized children in rural Mexico. By providing enrichment activities, materials and supplies, educational scholarships, healthcare services, and humanitarian services to locals of the region, Project Amigo supports roughly 600 youth in Colima, Mexico each year. Many children go on to obtain an education at the University of Colima or one of the local trade schools, and almost all of them remain in Mexico after obtaining their education.

Gary’s passion for Project Amigo intrigued Michele and before she knew it, she was signed up to join Gary and a dozen other volunteers from the Rotary Club of Boise Sunrise on the next volunteer trip to Cofradía de Suchitlán in March 2020.

“The village was different from what I expected,” Michele recalls from the trip. “It was very rustic and peaceful. The Project Amigo hacienda is situated near the center of the town and in the evenings,  we would meander down the streets, seeing the locals sitting outside their homes, visiting with each other and smiling at us as we passed by. It was easy to see why Ted Rose and Susan Hill, the founders of Project Amigo, fell in love with Cofradía de Suchitlán over 35 years ago.”

After a week of hard work on construction projects plus rewarding time spent reading to the children and building relationships with the locals, Michele returned from the trip feeling energized and grateful for the opportunity.

But upon her return in early March, the Bacquets did not expect they would soon be the ones needing support from their community. As the COVID-19 pandemic spread, Franck and Michele chose to keep Bacquet’s Restaurant open as long as possible. With a staff of professional career servers and top cleanliness practices already in place, they knew they could continue safely serving their customers. But when they inevitably had to close their dining room doors, they were able to quickly adjust. Franck developed a new family style menu and they started offering takeout and delivery.

“Our goal is to provide families with fresh meals that they can enjoy, possibly even save as leftovers,” says Michele. “For a while, people couldn’t even get milk or chicken in the grocery stores so we knew we had to keep serving our customers complete, quality meals.”

Since Bacquet’s Restaurant had access to supplies that had become unavailable in stores, they even began delivering staples and other necessities to customers who needed them, including toilet paper, flour, and yeast.

Bacquet’s loyal customer base is what has enabled them to remain in business through the COVID-19 pandemic. That, and of course a little help from a good friend. To support their new delivery business, Michele found herself in need of a reliable delivery boy and of course Gary stepped right in to help.

“It’s actually been a great experience,” remarks Gary. “Every afternoon, Tuesday through Saturday, I show up ready to help.” He also reflects on how many repeat customers he delivers to. “I’ve been to some houses so many times now that they’ve been saved in my GPS!”

But as businesses began opening in May, the Bacquets decided to wait a little longer before reopening their dining room. In the meantime, they will continue their takeout service and uphold their mission to provide fresh, high-quality meals to their loyal customers.

Maintaining Bacquet’s standards of freshness is a challenge as supply chains remain unpredictable. But once again, their friend Gary found a way to help. After he built three eight-foot planter boxes for the Bacquets, they can now grow fresh vegetables and other ingredients right on the premises of their restaurant.

At a time when we are facing new and unexpected hurdles, we can all appreciate the value of having a friend like Gary Multanen; someone selfless, resourceful, willing to pitch in any way he can. But even more important than having a friend like Gary is being a friend like Gary. Let’s keep showing up for each other. Let’s keep being selfless. And like Gary, let’s try to keep a smile on our faces while we do it.

To join Bacquet’s Restaurant mailing list and stay apprised of their current menu offerings, follow them at www.facebook.com/bacquetsrestaurant or email [email protected] To learn about Project Amigo, visit www.projectamigo.org.