If things had gone as planned for Jean-Jacques Prévôt, chef and founder of Maison Prévôt, he would have never opened his restaurant.
On a trip to visit his mother in Paris in 1977, he told Stars and Stripes, his car broke down outside the town of Cavaillon in the south of France. When he phoned his mother to explain what happened, she asked him to walk into town and buy her some Charentais, a varietal of melon so adored in Cavaillon that it has its own sculpture, festival, and order of knights.
“The woman who sold me the melons became my wife,” he said. He stayed in Cavaillon with Sylviane, the melon vendor, and in 1981 opened his eponymous restaurant. “My mother is still waiting for her melons.”
Maison Prévôt is a love letter to the Charentais. From the melon-centric sculptures on display to the napkin rings, pitchers, cutlery, and plateware, the theme is unmistakable. An artist at heart, Prévôt even developed an edible paint from the seeds of the Charentais with which he painted some of the artwork gracing the white-tablecloth dining room.
From May to late September in particular—Charentais’ harvest season—the menu pivots squarely toward the melon, featuring dishes such as a melon smoothie with mead, a melon lobster casserole, and a douceur au chocolat with mint and melon. Prévôt incorporates melon into off-season menus as well, such as his autumn melon soup. In the 1990s, he even developed a Charentais aperitif. Crafting a melon ketchup to accompany his foie gras “burger,” Prévôt proves there’s no wrong way to eat Charentais.
Jean-Jacques and Sylviane’s daughter, Sandra, has managed the restaurant since 2008, and in 2018, Maison Prévôt earned its first Michelin star.