06, 2006 Watauga
your favorite restaurant in a gas station!
Franson Nwaeze and wife Paula Merrell owners of Chef Point
Cafe in Watauga. Franson may also be called the
"Flying Gas Station Chef"
I will be
the first to admit that I had never been to or heard of
Chef Point Cafe in Watauga. Sorta makes me wonder
where I have been for the past three years. Seems
this little endeavor is getting more famous by the day.
When staff told me that a restaurant in a gas station had
been lined up for a feature business article, I conjured
up a vision of an old building, that previously had a life
as a gas station, converted into some sort of art deco
cutesy cafe. But alas, this IS a gas station and the
story behind the two entrepreneurs that own and operate
the gas/cafe is one of innovation and perseverance in the
face of long odds.
The circuitous road that winds up at a Conoco gas station,
located at 5901 Watauga Road between Rufe Snow and Denton
Highway, includes Franson, a native Nigerian coming to the
United States to be a pilot, and Paula, who spent years
doing financial planning for high net worth individuals.
couple first met in Tulsa when Paula called on Franson
while she was in the insurance business. According
to which one of the couple is doing the talking, the chase
was on with each one chasing the other. They married
and joined Paula's financial knowledge with Franson's love
The Flying Chef told LNO he can fly just about anything
short of a 747 Jet, but flying and even airline mechanics,
(he went to mechanics school as well but couldn't find
work in 1991), was not in his future.
Franson started as a prep cook working 80 hour
weeks. Franson had found his love of cooking
was his real passion. In fact, he became the
Executive Chef trainer teaching chefs at the Macaroni
Grill. Paula then decided to come to the DFW area from
Tulsa to check out employment opportunities.
the front of what could become your favorite restaurant!
relocated to the DFW area and decided to open their own
restaurant. Only problem was is that no bank would give the
two the time of day, much less a $1 million loan to get
started. However, Paula had a client that told her that
financing was available for gas stations/convenience store
operations. With a plan, potentially known only to Franson
and Paula, Franson started working for free at the client's gas
station to learn the operations. Then came a break.
Chef Point now
caters parties, weddings and other events. Their business
was voted the People's Choice Award at the Blues Bash
learned of a gas station under construction in
Watauga. Apparently the original borrower had gotten
cold feet right after 911. The couple ran their
numbers and presented a plan to the bank for a $1 million
loan that would allow them to complete the facility and
open up for business. Viola! no money for a
restaurant, but ok for a gas station.
They immediately changed plans to include a small
kitchen. At least Franson would have somewhere he
could practice his passion.
However, Franson's talents were not built on hotdogs and
hamburgers (although they serve up an excellent tasting
burger with freedom fries), he would offer a variety of
food. The word started getting out and back food
shelves gave way to more tables and more chairs to accommodate
the growing loyal customers.
locals discovered Chef Point, the word began to seep out.
Media publicity contributed to what is becoming the
legendary Chef Point Cafe. The Star-Telegram ran a special
article written by freelance writer J.G. Domke, titled,
"Finding Success in an Unlikely Place, Josh Shaffer
of the Star Telegram wrote an article titled "Chef
Cooks up Loyal Following," Patricia Rodriquez wrote
an article titled, "A good place to fill up,"
and Columnist Dave Lieber wrote about how he thought it
was a great April Fools prank to play on his wife, when he
told her that he was taking her to dinner at a gas
Think you've see everything? Well how about going to
a Conoco gas station and finding the normal convenience
store stuff, like chips, drinks, gas, lottery tickets,
et.al. Oh by the way, you also can order up Duck a
l'orange, or their famous "What Nots"
appetizer, five large mushrooms stuffed with cheese
and nestled in garlic butter.
The menu ranges from pasta to pizza, from a nice selection
of seafood to grilled chicken and steak.
Click Here for the menu.
Paula said the business has grown since opening in 2003 to
actually become a destination point. "We have had
calls as far away as Austin and Oklahoma from people
wanting directions," said Paul. The couple's 15
and 16 year old children now both work at the restaurant
to help out the family enterprise.
personally oversees all the cooking, here is putting the
finishing touches of a stuffed pork chop plate.
said that they have just kind of "gone with the
flow." She said that the publicity for their
unique establishment has been a great boost to
business. "Brett Ship did a live television
spot from our restaurant and he raved about our bread
pudding as being the best, so we voted ourselves as having
the best Bread pudding in DFW," (she said the vote
was her and the cashier and they both agreed).
In recognition of the incredible hurdles overcome and the
distinction of making their business work in a very
unusual environment, Chef Point was awarded the
prestigious 2005 Fort Worth Mayor's Award at the
points out the catering part of their business is also
growing. "We have catered events at Alliance Airport,
Baylor, Cities of Watauga and Fort Worth, as well as lots
business first opened up, Paula said she drove up and down
the road passing out menus. "One day a customer
was leaving and I asked him if he wanted to take a menu
flyer with him and he said no! It hurt my feelings
until the man said to me...Why? they are pinned to every
bulletin board in town."
Now it is
not unusual for the cafe to get inquiries from out of town
and even out of state.
It took the
couple one year to find a location and 8 months to finally
get their funds. Paula says,
with their success, she doesn't think the bank will have
the same reluctance should they decide to expand.
The property immediately behind the current location is
being looked at for the possibility of expanding the
This sign says
it all about the Chef Point motto, "Fill 'er up
outside and Fill 'er up inside! Breakfast starts
Paula said that the
most important message to give readers is that you don't have to
pay high prices to eat 5 star meals. "We serve white
table cloth food, without the expense of the white table
cloths! Running on a tight schedule, we decided to put
in an order to go and bring back to the office. The Alfredo
Chicken and Alfredo Shrimp were excellent. Just as we were
completing the interview, Colleyville City Councilman Mike Taylor
walked into the cafe. Mike said that he discovered the cafe
last year. "This place is typically packed with people,
their food is great and I eat lunch here as often as I can,"
Like I said, don't know where I have been for the past three
years. Forget the bars on the windows and the gas pumps out
front. Drive right up to this gas station, park, get out, go
in and walk to your left to find a table. You will
immediately be waited on and find the staff is friendly and
This is a
"double dare you" to try the food here. After
that, you can also find some unsuspecting friend and take them to
lunch...it'll be worth the trip to see their face when you pull
into the gas station and worth the surprise ending when they taste
the food of the incredible "Franson the Flying Gas Station
Call Paula and talk about the restaurant or catering at