Little did Maria Munoz Del Castillo know that the night she sat beside her mother, Sole Del Castillo Blanco, in the family's kitchen casually reminiscing about when they owned a modest gourmet restaurant would turn out to be a pivotal moment in their lives.
That was 2 1/2 years ago, right after she graduated from college, and Munoz Del Castillo, a Norwalk resident, was feeling somewhat lost.
"I always felt let down by ordinary expectations. My parents would tell me it was because I came from dreamers," Munoz Del Castillo said. "My Dad, Bernardo, quotes President Kennedy; `We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.'
"I told my mother how I missed the restaurant. And to my surprise, she told me she missed it too. I thought it had been such hard work for her and my father to maintain, but she was still passionate about it."
That was when the idea to start cooking again began getting tossed around.
"I said, `Well, why don't we do it? Why don't we start cooking again?' Of course we couldn't just buy a place and start a restaurant, we would start small," Munoz Del Castillo said to her mom.
"Why not sell our gourmet foods at local farmers markets? That way we can still do what we love, and save up for our own space some day?"
Munoz Del Castillo's mother loved the idea.
The mother-daughter team ventured into unchartered territory when they became the first venders to sell gourmet foods at farmers markets in the area.
"What I love so much about working under my mother is that we expect the most from each other ... perfection is the objective," Munoz Del Castillo said.
To prepare their gourmet food with a Chilean twist inspired by their heritage, they rented out a commercial kitchen in New Canaan and later Norwalk under the name of Du Soleil.
For the past two years, Munoz Del Castillo has saved every single dime she has made from the farmers markets, as well as from selling dinners to go and catering with her heart set on the dream of finally owning her own restaurant.
That dream will finally come true this October, when Munoz Del Castillo opens Bistro Du Soleil in Westport. The restaurant is set to open on Riverside Avenue, and will feature an assortment of fine foods in a low-key environment, including beef empanadas, gazpacho, quinoa salad and pork quesadillas.
"No one in their right mind gets into the restaurant business," Munoz Del Castillo said.
"It's a dangerous game at times. You only move in the right direction when you embrace the willingness to surrender to the unknown. The ability to learn, understand, move on and recreate yourself is what keeps you going. I look forward to being in a kitchen that's 110 degrees because I know I can do this."
Munoz Del Castillo's big plans for Bistro Du Soleil's fall opening are sure to make a splash in the Westport and Norwalk communities, she said.
"We want to cater to the here and now, and in doing so we would like to reach out to the community. We're looking to feature artists and musicians. We want to support local, low-carbon agriculture, green technology and renewable resources."
For information on Bistro Du Soleil, call 203-981-8020 or e-mail BistroDuSoleil@aol.com.
Mac McDonough is a freelance writer.