At Tres Bonne Cuisine, every inch of space not devoted to dining is stuffed full of sweet and savory edibles from all over Europe. An adjoining room holds hundreds of bottles of beer and wine from an even more diverse selection of countries. Barbara Haines can usually be found chatting with the customers, while her husband, Tom, sticks mainly to the kitchen. To say that there’s more to Tom than meets the eye is putting it mildly.
As a young man, Tom joined the Air Force and traveled extensively, learning all he could about the various cuisines—and beers—of Europe. After his service, he moved to Washington state, where he took over the lease for a restaurant on the Makah Indian Reservation in Neah Bay. He also began catering dinners for the local Air Force base, themed after countries that troops were leaving for or returning from. Tom thrives under pressure, and fondly describes working through disasters. When storms in Neah Bay knocked out power for two weeks, his restaurant remained open 24 hours a day, running on gas.
“It was a blast,” he said.
Tom later relocated to Florida and began a series of jobs in management and training for companies including Red Robin and The Olive Garden. It was while in Florida that Tom ended up on a blind date with Barbara, a native of Warsaw, Poland, who had moved to Tampa after making the trip to visit friends there.
The couple married shortly thereafter and moved to Boise in 1994 to open Tres Bon Cafe, an eatery in the basement of the downtown Bon Marche. After a decade, the Haines' decided to shut down the restaurant. They took a lengthy vacation in Europe and when they returned, agreed that they wanted to stay in Boise but weren’t interested in working for others any more. Barbara dreamed of starting a little European cafe, and Tom had the experience to make it happen.
Tres Bonne Cuisine opened for business on Nov. 11, 2005, at 6555 W. Overland Road, Suite 104. Tom does all the cooking, and according to him, Barbara handles “everything else.”
“Most people come here to see Barbara,” Tom added, smiling.
While the breakfasts at Tres Bonne Cuisine are standard fare, the lunch menu branches out into European-style deli selections. Each week on Fridays and Saturdays, the cafe offers themed dinners featuring the food, beer and wine of a selected country. The recipes come not only from Tom and Barbara, but from friends and customers looking for a little taste of home.
Tom has two grown sons from his previous marriage—one lives with his family on the reservation and the other makes a living building race cars. Tom said he's happy to stay in Boise as long as business remains good.
“I don’t like it when it’s quiet,” Tom said. “That’ll kill me.”
What was your biggest culinary disaster?
Tom: One time, I made a beef soup and I had my barley and tapioca right next to each other. My niece came up and said, "I want you to look at this soup." I had put some tapioca in it. It looked like fish eyes.
How do you take your coffee?
Barbara: A shot of espresso with milk.
Tom: Cold European drip coffee with half and half.
If you weren’t cooking for a living, what would you be doing?
Tom: Selling Polish beer. I love it.