Your passport to French Flavor in Omaha
Le Voltaire has served as a staple for French cuisine in the Omaha community since 2001.
The cozy 82-seat restaurant has a magical ability to transport diners into the very essence of Paris, where they are warmly welcomed by friendly staff. Whether it’s their first visit or a return, the ambiance, sounds, and aromas envelop guests in a comforting embrace, igniting their anticipation for an extraordinary dining experience that exceeds all expectations.
Originally started by Cédric and Desarae Fichepain, Chef Wilson Calixte and his wife Tonya Calixte purchased Le Voltaire in 2021.
Calixte’s journey to ownership took him from his birthplace, Port Au Prince, Haiti, to New York City, and then to Omaha, where he resided for 10 years before he purchased Le Voltaire.
His love for French cooking began early with his mother and her Creole influence.
“I always liked being in the kitchen watching my mother cook,” he says.
Yet, he was never interested in cooking as a profession. He wanted to be an engineer—his first goal after high school—but that didn’t work out for him.
Following his time in Haiti until the age of nine, he spent the remainder of his adolescence years in New York City, starting in 1990. Initially, he took a job as a restaurant dishwasher out of necessity. However, fate intervened, leading Calixte to discover his true passion for cooking as he gradually ascended through the ranks, ultimately reaching a managerial position, all before he departed New York for Omaha.
Calixte didn’t receive formal training until he came to Omaha in the spring of 2010 and Fichepain hired him as his sous chef. Concurrently, Calixte enrolled in a cooking school, but he places significant emphasis on the invaluable knowledge and skills he acquired through hands-on experience during this period.
Calixte spent three years as sous chef and another three years as head chef before he became the owner of Le Voltaire. He says during the purchase process, a customer and good friend began mentoring him on several aspects of owning a business, such as how to garner funding.
According to Calixte, French cooking is often described as an art. It’s a fusion of flavor and culture, along with “a lot of technique, cream, and butter.”
He notes the history of French cooking elicited ideas from other countries and blended it with its own culture. For Haiti, it was a blend of French and West African influence.
As for Le Voltaire, its beef stew, Boeuf Bourguignon, is the most popular dish, he says. Sirloin or chuck roast is braised for about three hours in red wine, demi-glace, carrots, onions, thyme, and “love and affection,” before pairing it with mashed potatoes.
“We tried to take it off the menu once,” Calixte says. “People didn’t like that. It could be 100 degrees outside and they still order it.”
Another popular menu item includes the French classic, Coq Au Vin, described as a chicken quarter stewed in white wine, onion, and carrots. Conveniently listed on the menu are wine pairings. With this dish, the recommendation is Sauvignon Blanc or Beaujolais.
To savor the full experience, don’t miss the array of delectable desserts, among which stands out is the Citron et Lavande Gâteaux Parfait. This delightful treat features a refreshing lemon mousse paired with lavender cake and fresh fruits, promising to tantalize your taste buds.
Calixte says the options are moderately priced for what the establishment offers, and Le Voltaire maintains a staff-base who make sure the customer receives the best experience. The staff and level of service are what keep customers coming back.
“We know the kids,” he says. “We know the spouses, and some customers have been coming for years. Le Voltaire has become their second home.”
As the father of three children, Calixte says having a legacy, something you can leave your children, along with “a passion to watch it grow,” means everything.
“If you don’t enjoy doing it, you’re not going to get good at it,” Calixte says.
Being a role model for others in the community, including children, is important to Calixte. He wants every child to look at him and believe that he or she can own a business too, despite life’s setbacks and obstacles, explaining that, “It’s hard to ask somebody to believe in something if they can’t see it in their own reflection.”
For individuals aspiring to own their own restaurant, much like himself, Calixte implores others to gain a deep understanding of the challenge of maintaining a work-life balance.
Calixte expresses deep love for his work and feels fortunate to pursue a career that ignites his passion. He eagerly anticipates the opportunities that lie ahead.
“I have a lot of energy and a smile, he says. “You have to be able to smile.”