Darroze, 48, grew up in southwest France in Villeneuve-de-Marsan, where the family's Michelin-starred inn was run by her father—and before him, her grandfather. She headed off to school to study business, and after graduation, arrived at Alain Ducasse's restaurant, Louis XV in the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, seeking a managing job. In a fateful switch, there was no room in the office, but there was a spot in the kitchen. Three years later, Ducasse encouraged her to step up to the challenge of running her own restaurant, and she returned home to Villeneuve-de-Marsan. As she writes on her website, "my father very generously gave me the keys to the kitchen." Her brother, the natural heir apparent, had branched off to start a now legendary Armagnac business.