Nothing can get in between Micheline “Mimi” Hebert and her love of serving food — not age, not a wheelchair, and certainly not a pandemic. At 80 years old, Mimi has proudly opened Le Petit Chez Mimi at 2842 Colorado Avenue, serving up her timeless and beloved country French dishes.
Mimi devotees can rejoice that six years following the closure of Hebert’s restaurant in the Palisades, they can once again tuck into her soul-soothing bouillabaisse and delectable lemon pie. In a year of frequent frustrations and several setbacks we could all use a comforting country meal cooked with love.
“It took me many years to get back in the business and I never stopped thinking about it and I never stopped hoping to open a restaurant. And yeah people thought she’s crazy, she’s 80, she’s in a wheelchair, how will she open a restaurant?” said Hebert. “I want to inspire everybody to realize that there is no limit, it you want to do something you can and you’re never too old to do what is your passion.”
A fabulous trendsetter, Hebert opened her first restaurant on Abbot Kinney in 1976 long before it became known as the coolest street in America. In the following four decades Hebert has gone on to run restaurants in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and the Palisades. In each location she stayed true to her Quebecois roots serving provincial French dishes so good her diners won’t let her change them.
When Mimi closed her Palisades restaurant due to a bad accident she had, many thought it marked the end of her prolific restauranteering career. Yet, six years of recovery and therapy later, Hebert is back in business and could not be happier.
“After my accident I didn’t have a life for six years and really the restaurant is giving me back my life,” said Hebert. “In recovery I did a ton of knitting for hospitals making blankets and lots of little hats — I made hundreds of those. It helped fill my time for a little while, but nothing could replace being in the restaurant business. Now, I am excited to go to work every single day.”
The first Chez Mimi in Santa Monica was open for 13 years on 26th St. and San Vicente before closing in 2010 to the collective dismay of the community. Hebert went on to open the Palisades’ Chez Mimi and, as in the case of all her moves, her clientele obediently followed.
“There are people who have been regular customers in all of my restaurants since Venice. They became basically family; we know them, we know their children, we know their grandchildren, so it’s a love affair. I’m really blessed,” said Hebert.
Hebert is followed not only by her clientele, but also by her personnel. Le Petit Chez Mimi’s head chef began working in Hebert’s first Venice restaurant 38 years ago. Hebert’s managerial assistant has worked with her for 34 years.
“To go into the restaurant business you have to love the business and you have to have a good team. I’m blessed to have an amazing team that has been with me for so long,” said Hebert.
Le Petit Chez Mimi perseveres the classic charm of its previous incarnations with an added boost of quaintness derived from the smaller space that Hebert has modeled after “a little French cottage”.
The menu opens with a series of hor d’oeuvres including pâté maison, escargots, and goats cheese and herb pastry, which pair excellently with any of Hebert’s rich and fragrant soups. The mains dishes feature excellent cuts of meat sourced by Hebert herself, including veal cutlet, grilled porkchop, and New York steak. There are also plenty of dishes to please fish lovers including bouillabaisse, trout with sauteed almonds, and mussels with white wine, shallots, cream, and French fries.
While dining is currently limited to the ten tables on the patio, Hebert said she cannot wait for the day she will fling the doors open and warmly welcome everyone inside.