Restaurants

Fort Worth’s French Restaurant Institution Gets a New Chef — and More Change Is On the Way

Chef Mark Hitri Returns To His Roots at Paris 7th

BY // 11.11.22

Chef Mark Hitri is the new executive chef at Fort Worth’s Paris 7th restaurant. It’s not as much a changing of the guard at one of North Texas’ most notable French restaurants. It’s more of a return of the guard.

Hitri tells PaperCity Fort Worth that he started cooking at a Dairy Queen in 1989, but his career has crossed paths with Paris 7th owner Bernard Tronche many times. The duo opened Belgian-inspired Sapristi! Bistro and  Wine Bar (in the space Enchilada’s Ole occupies now) back in 2000. Hitri also helmed the kitchen at Tronche’s beloved Saint-Emilion taking it to the top of Fort Worth restaurant ratings.

“I’ve known Bernard since 2000 and he has been a mentor throughout my career,” Hitri says.  “He has given me some great opportunities in the past. I have learned so much more since I had the number one restaurant in Dallas/Fort Worth when I was at Saint-Emilion.”

Bernard Tronche opened Saint-Emilion in 1985, five years after moving to Texas from his native France. The Fort Worth mainstay, with its classic blackboard menu, has been housed in a vine-covered A-frame house on West Seventh Street ever since. Then in 2018, he moved the fine dining component to its nearby sister restaurant Paris 7th just down the street and recrafted the original restaurant into more of a French country bistro.

The name for Paris 7th is a nod, of course, to Paris’ Seventh Arrondissement neighborhood, as well as the restaurant’s address along Fort Worth’s Seventh Street.

In the intervening years, Chef Hitri took time away to sharpen his knives, and those of many other burgeoning local chefs. He says he helped move The Culinary School of Fort Worth from a “hobbyist program to more of a professional career development program.”

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During his six years at the culinary school, Hitri contributed to curriculum development and was one of the instructors, training so many newcomers to Fort Worth’s restaurant scene.

“One of the reasons I went to the culinary school was to spend more time with my boys as they were in high school,” Hitri tells PaperCity Fort Worth. “But now I don’t need to be as involved with them and I missed being in the kitchen. I was actually getting inspired by all the exciting things my students were doing and I felt it was time to get back into a kitchen and have some fun and do some exciting things myself.

“I still have a lot of cooking left in me and this type of cuisine and fine dining has always been my preference. So I just reached out to Bernard and here we are.”

All the classics like Parisian style crepes fill the menu at Fort Worth's Paris 7th restaurant.
All the classics like Parisian style crepes fill the menu at Fort Worth’s Paris 7th restaurant.

What’s New At Paris 7th Under Mark Hitri

So far, Hitri has only made minor alterations to the menu at Paris 7th.

“The format of Paris 7th is very similar to what I was doing while I was at Saint-Emilion,” he notes. “So the overall concept I kept the same, but I have made some changes to the sauces and sides and plating.

“Plus I have continued the tradition of the blackboard specials changing throughout the week.”

Staples like the roast duck, French onion soup and house-made pate aren’t going anywhere. But foodies can look forward to seasonal menu updates and according to Hitri “some special menus and events.” Picture a real-deal fromage and caviar service, escargot, rack of Australian lamb and sole meuniere, among other French classics.

Paris 7th – The rack of lamb at Paris 7th never disappoints.
The rack of lamb at Paris 7th never disappoints.

There will however be a change of ownership at the restaurant happening soon. Bernard Tronche is stepping away from Paris 7th, and leaving its ownership in the capable hands of its current maître d Chris Salvador. Salvador will take over as the majority owner with Chef Hitri retaining a minority ownership and full control of the kitchen. Salvador’s background includes time at Arlington’s former Cacharel restaurant and at Saint-Emilion.

The Paris 7th transition is currently underway, but won’t be official until perhaps the first of the year.

“I am delighted to be able to honor the tradition of cuisine and service,” Hitri says. “And look forward to growing and developing my team to help carry the tradition forward.”

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