Person of Interest: Donnie Ferneau

The Little Rock chef takes his food to-go

IT’S KIND OF A CRAZY STORY,” Donnie Ferneau says. As one of Little Rock’s best-known chefs goes on to explain how he found himself competing as “The Southern Frenchie” on Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race, it’s a little tough not to think that “crazy” might be an overstatement, at least relatively speaking. Although, it is kinda bonkers that he went through the whole thing alongside his newly wedded wife. But as far as crazy stories are concerned, it’s not exactly the craziest. Because when you consider Donnie’s many reinventions—his fine-dining restaurant, Ferneau; his Argenta health-food venture, Good Food by Ferneau; his most recent stint at the 1836 Club—this newest venture practically feels like par for the course.

On going mobile

“If something is going wrong, if something doesn’t work on the truck, 90 percent of the time it’s because you didn’t know what the hell you were doing.”

On frying chicken

“I put it on my menu back at Ferneau as a joke. And lo and behold, I was selling more fried chicken than anything I had. Now that I’m older and, you know, more tame, that chicken is a winner. I’m cooking for my customers rather than for myself.”

On the ‘Frenchie’ in the Southern Frenchie

“My family has always had French bulldogs and Boston terriers, and we’re super-dog-lovers to where it almost gets weird. We had a dog named Charlie when I was growing up. My parents just got another, and we named him Charlie. Charlie Number Two.”

On shifting away from healthy fare

“Scratch the health part of my career. That was like when Garth Brooks had the alter ego.”

On riding around in a truck as a newlywed

“Our marriage is definitely stronger because of the show. It tested us. It could have gone one of two ways, and it went the positive.”

Lightning Round

Favorite gas station food? Taquitos

Best song for rocking out on the road? “Seeker,” by The Who

Culinary guilty pleasure? I love, I love, I love chocolate doughnuts.

Favorite Southern foodie town? New Orleans

Alternate idea for a food truck? If you could serve booze on one, I would do a margarita one.