Growing up in Miami, Keith Becton would hang around the kitchen while his mom made jambalaya.
Not the jambalaya of Louisiana fame — Becton was born on the French Caribbean island of Martinique, and his mother’s jambalaya had a decidedly Caribbean flair.
Those afternoons in the kitchen set Becton on a chef’s trajectory.
“I definitely caught the bug early,” he said.
By high school, he was working at a French restaurant in Miami. Within a few years, he had started culinary school and moved to Lyon, France, to develop his skills.
Now, three decades later, his love of French cuisine still guides him as he directs the kitchen at Bay St. Louis’ 200 North Beach restaurant.
I didn’t know a classically trained French chef was in charge of things at 200 North Beach when I visited for lunch.
A friendly black-clad waitress stood at my table reading the day’s specials. When she mentioned a bacon quiche, I knew what I’d be ordering.
My slice of quiche arrived, layers of cheese, egg and bacon displayed in a cross-section, with a simple green salad. I was transported for a moment back to Alsace-Lorraine, where I sat a few years ago before a similar lunch.
I began cutting into the wedge with a fork, pleased when cheese oozed out slightly under the pressure.
The quiche was a showcase of textures, the browned top giving way to custardy egg, then gooey cheese, then chewy bacon, a crumbly crust, and finally a red-pepper aioli sauce.
It was decadent the way a quiche should be, rich, substantial and smooth. The richness was offset slightly by soft bits of red bell pepper and green onion scattered throughout the custard.
I doused the green salad with a zingy balsamic vinegar, and it made a bright accompaniment to the main course.
Just as I was finishing my meal, Becton introduced himself and joined me at my table. I wanted to know about the quiche. Was it…?
“Quiche Lorraine,” he said, confirming that it was indeed the dish I had eaten on my trip to France.
Quiche of the Day
He makes a different quiche every day (my waitress raved about the crab and corn quiche they serve once or twice a week). Paired with a green salad or soup, it’s one of several daily lunch specials and costs $11.
Becton’s love of French culture led him eventually from Miami to New Orleans. He was drawn to Bay St. Louis about a year ago by the opportunity to work as the executive chef at 200 North Beach. He is also a part owner of the restaurant, along with New Orleans developers Jim and Catherine MacPhaille.
200 North Beach’s menu features many of the items common around the Coast — oysters prepared several ways, poboys, fresh fish. His customers want their seafood, Becton said, and so he keeps his menu seafood-based.
“We’re right here off the Bay,” he said.
Tweaking the menu
But he is always tweaking the menu, adding a French flourish here, a creole touch there. One of his steak specials, for example, is ribeye a la Oscar — a ribeye steak served with asparagus and topped with a crab-meat Bearnaise sauce. His charbroiled oysters, which I look forward to trying on a future visit, look like art — they are served on an oval plate, the shape mimicking the oysters’ half shells and the discs of crispy bread served on the side.
The details are there: browned Parmesan, a lettuce garnish, a lemon wedge, a polished oyster fork, and little crystals of rock salt underneath everything. A plate of six oysters is $10, or half-off during the restaurant’s happy hour (4 p.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday).
Though I visited on a Tuesday afternoon, the Bangles’ “Manic Monday” played quietly in the restaurant’s cavernous main dining room.
From a seat near the front window, I looked out over the Bay, watched palm trees waving across the street and felt relieved when the bright afternoon sun reached almost to my window, but not quite.
The restaurant is decorated in shades of brown and black, with sepia-toned prints of a bygone Bay St. Louis hung around the dining room. The ceilings of the room are around 15 feet high, the sturdy old joists from the second floor left exposed.
Becton is experimenting with smoked meats now—he tried a brisket recently and his customers loved it. He wants to give his customers what they want, but he also wants to constantly offer new dishes, new ingredients, the food close to his heart. One of the restaurant’s specials is a tribute to that formative dish his mother made so many years ago: a creole jambalaya, served once a week.
200 North Beach
Where: 200 North Beach Boulevard, Bay St. Louis
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Sunday
Details: Classic Coast dishes such as oysters, poboys, and fish, with a French flair. Daily specials include a sub-$20 business lunch (including a rotating selection of quiches) and happy hour oysters (half-off).