In the early '70s I belonged to a small tribe of American foodies who crisscrossed France twice a year in search of gastronomic epiphany. We were the kind of people who didn't call it spring and fall. We called it mushrooms and game. If Michelin said a restaurant was worth the detour, we braved the back roads. Here we are, my guy and I, dawdling along a country lane on a route north of Lyon, alerted to a promise of two-star pleasure in Mionnay, a post so tiny it would be easy to hurtle right through it. The restaurant we're seeking, formerly known as La Mere Charles, has recently acquired its chef's name, along with his vaulting ambition. After training under the legendary chef Fernand Point at La Pyramide, the restaurant south of Lyon then reputed to be France's finest, this local boy has returned to Mionnay to take over the family bistro and make his mark. Our car creeps along, and then there it is, the stucco bulk of Restaurant Alain Chapel. The place is ringed with an impressive cluster of chariots—a Jaguar, a trio of Mercedeses, a small utility Rolls—not a parking spot left on a fall Sunday. We pull into the courtyard, a bourgeois patio with tile and greenery.