A taste of home: Park woman shares French culture through food

A taste of home: Park woman shares French culture through food

Photos courtesy of Gerard and Belevender
Marie Wallace is in her happy place making crêpes at The French Cow, a fixture at Eastern Market.

The reason Marie Wallace came to the United States from France and a big reason she remains are about as far apart as her home country and current residence.
“I was 23 and a big Eminem fan,” Wallace recalled. “I loved hip-hop and Eminem. I wanted to write a screenplay; I’m a screenwriter. My dream was to come to Detroit, meet Eminem, give him my screenplay and he would produce it.”
Though she came close — she met Eminem’s manager, Paul Rosenberg, multiple times and, as a singer, worked with Luis Resto, who co-produced the rapper’s Oscar-winning “Lose Yourself,” from the film “Eight Mile” — she has yet to meet the man himself and her screenplay was turned down.
But the rejection turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Wallace at the time was starting a business that has since become a popular Eastern Market destination.
“I’m very passionate about French food, about food in general,” she explained. “I was disappointed when I tasted crêpes here. They’re not the quality I was used to (in France). I had crêpes all the time with my family; we made crêpes constantly.”
In 2008, Wallace mentioned to her husband she’d like to start a crêpe business, but the timing wasn’t right as she was busy raising their two sons.
“Then Good Girls Go to Paris Crêpes opened in Detroit,” she said. “It broke my heart. It was very popular and it got big. People were lining up for crêpes.
“… When I got my divorce, I took my kids there and they said, ‘You should make your own,’” she added.
That’s exactly what she did. Using her own crêpe recipe and with her mother’s help, Wallace set about creating The French Cow crêpes shop.
“I started at Coffee & … on Jefferson and Chalmers,” she said. “I was scared. I didn’t know if people would like it.”
She voiced her concerns to the cafe owner, who encouraged Wallace to give it a try.
“She kept saying, ‘Just do it,’” Wallace recalled. “So each month, I had a pop-up there.”
Though she had some success, the shop wasn’t enough to support her, so she landed a job at Selden Standard in Detroit, which helped her learn more about the industry.
“They hired me knowing I was starting my own company,” she said. “I studied a lot there. I learned about kitchen service. I learned the ropes through Selden. Two years later, I started at Eastern Market.”
Wallace said some customers were skeptical at first. Her savory crêpes, for instance, are made with buckwheat flour, so they come out darker.
“But that’s how we make them in France,” she explained. “Black is for savory, white is for sweet. Little by little, they began tasting them. They say, ‘This is how they’re done in France? OK, let’s try it.’
“Now people are there before we even open, every time,” she continued. “We sell 200 to 350 crêpes, which is a lot. Now I have employees, two to four during the season. I started with just my mother.”
The French Cow currently is a fixture at Eastern Market on Saturdays, though during summer months, hungry patrons can find the shop there three days a week. The French Cow also handles catering requests.
“Anything where we can sell crêpes we are doing,” Wallace said. “I also make baguette sandwiches and sell them at Milwaukee Cafe near New Center.”
Among The French Cow’s most popular savory crêpes are the Pigalle and the Big Mack.
“The Pigalle is inspired from the Red District of Paris,” Wallace said. “It’s delicious, but also a little bit dirty. It’s Swiss cheese, ham, caramelized onions, then I make a homemade cilantro-garlic sauce I put on top.
“The Big Mack has corned beef,” she added. “I named it after a customer who’s Irish, named Cormack. The crêpes have some very strange names because they’re named after things in my life, like The Wallace Boys — Nutella, bananas and walnuts — is named after my sons.”
Another popular sweet crêpe is Jessica’s Secret, featuring homemade rhubarb jam, strawberries and ricotta. But don’t expect to find this tasty treat at the shop during winter.
“I try to do everything seasonal and strawberries are not in season now,” Wallace said. “I use the freshest ingredients. The market is an amazing place to find fresh ingredients all year round. So many people don’t know that Eastern Market is open all year. It’s one of the only cities in the United States that has that.”
Wallace currently is compiling a cookbook, “with crêpes and other things, picturing the authentic French way of living,” she said.
“I feel like sometimes Americans are infatuated (with France) for the wrong reason,” Wallace said. “They fall in love with Paris because of the Eiffel Tower, because it’s so romantic. They don’t dig deep into what the culture really is, of what the feeling of sharing food really is. It’s not that they don’t want to, but now I’m forcing them to. If I ever open a shop, it will be a real culture shock for them, because I will keep it authentic.
“I would love to have my own place in Grosse Pointe Park,” she added. “I would love it to have a Parisian feel where people can walk to it.”

Grosse Pointe Park resident Marie Wallace brings an athentic Parisian food experience to Eastern Market with sweet and savory crêpes inspired by her hometown.

Wallace said making crêpes helps her express her creative side, which knows no limits.
“I’m also a trained actor and screenwriter and a singer,” she said. “I love to decorate. I feel like crêpes may seem odd, but I create a lot when I’m coming up with a menu or decorating the booth creatively at the market. I am a content creator and a constant creator.”
Wallace put her creativity to use during the pandemic by writing the screenplay, “13 Weeks,” for which she is trying to get representation.
“It’s about two people who start a conversation during the pandemic, apart from each other, in different cities,” she said of the romance.
When she’s not peddling crêpes, Wallace, who has lived in Grosse Pointe Park since 2016, enjoys spending time with her two boys, ages 12 and 14, both students at Pierce Middle School.
Learn more about The French Cow on Instagram @thefrenchcow, on Facebook at The French Cow crêpes, by visiting thefrenchcowcrepesshop.net or emailing thefrenchcowcrep[email protected]