Posted On: 12/01/2007
Patrick Thirion is a busy man. As executive chef of Steven Becker Fine Dining, he oversees two Nadoz Euro Bakery & Cafes as well as the Coronado Ballroom and the SBFD catering company. “I started working for Steven Becker two days before Nadoz first opened, and I opened up the bakery because that’s my specialty. Eight months later I became the executive chef over the whole company,” he said. The new Nadoz location opened in mid-November and ever since, Thirion has been splitting his time, overseeing operations and training staff. He’s not in the kitchen as much as he’d like, but his enthusiasm for world flavors is evident in his wide-ranging menus.
How does your training inform the rest of the menu?
Most of my training is pastry, but before I received my degree, I held different positions as a sous chef in country clubs and hotels, so I have a background in culinary as well. Having a pastry degree helps with menu development because of how scientific baking and pastry are. Traveling helps me come up with the menus. You can definitely tell where I’ve been, because we change the menu twice a year.
So where have you been recently?
Italy. With the new menu starting here, there’s a lot of Italian influence.
When you travel, how do you incorporate those flavors into your menus?
It might just start with an ingredient. Obviously, in Italy the hams are just phenomenal. It opened my eyes. Here in America, we think of prosciutto as the Italian ham. One cured ham. But over there, the varieties …
But we are a bakery and café; we’re not a sit-down, full-service restaurant. So the ingredients I choose have to work for a short order line – I have to pick products that hold up well and are cross-utilized, that go well in sandwiches, salads and so forth. I try to incorporate things like prosciutto as well as a sopresotta, Alaskan salmon, just a wide variety. I don’t think you see that a lot in this style of café.
What are some dishes on the new menu that you’re excited about?
I like the red-pepper jelly with the grissini and black figs. The ratatouille-goat cheese gratin I think is really nice. We’ll [soon] begin featuring specialty crêpes – one will be a duck confit crêpe with cranberry gastrique. I’m thinking about doing a braised lamb shank crêpe with an eggplant salad.
What would traditionally be thought of as a dinner entrée is being made into a sandwich or a crêpe?
I want to boost the dinner business. Of course our desserts and our coffees … after dinner they’re great, but I give [people who come in for dessert] a light dinner as well. We don’t have a full [kitchen], so I have to be more creative in coming up with dinner-style entrées and being able to cook them in “café time.” People are expecting to get their product in five to seven minutes. A crêpe is a fast way to produce a lot of things.
How is it having two cafés?
Right now I’m coming in [to the Boulevard location] at about 6 a.m. to get breakfast started and continue the training process. I can’t be here all day; I have to go back at least around 2 o’clock to the Coronado to handle events and do processing and ordering and manage employees over there.
Do you still get to have hands-on experience in the kitchen?
It’s slowly slipping away with the new café now. It’s moving to more management, but I don’t like to be working in the office all day. As best I can, I try to put a few hours in the kitchen every day.
At Nadoz, the pastries are European, but the flavors on the menu run the gamut.
Yeah, the café started out as a European-style café, and obviously that’s what we do with our desserts and pastries. I try to keep the flavors, whether it be Italian or southern French, but every once in a while, I’ll do something like a Thai chicken salad, throw something in that’s totally different and fun. We started making naan and I just loved it. My night baker started messing around with it and I was like, “This would make a great panini.” So we started doing that with curry and cilantro, and it took off so much that we decided to make a dinner-style crêpe with it. I figure when I come across something that I like, and I think, “Wow, the flavors are there,” I just do it. My boss doesn’t restrict me to anything, so if I feel a customer’s going to really enjoy it, we’ll run it.
It sounds like you have fun with the menu.
I do get a lot of freedom. It’s a lot of work to change a menu – and I’m up to at least 10 menus a year that I have to change if you look at catering and all the packages we have for buffets. … I wish I could spend more time on it because I always come up with ideas, but sometimes they have to wait until the next menu.
How do you stay creative?
It started with travel, all through France and Luxembourg and Belgium and Spain and just going to all the different countries. … If you can re-create something that you enjoyed over there, and someone walks in and says, “I was in southern France and I had the same thing,” … it’s fun when I can relate something to someone and it makes them think of home or a flavor they remember. I think it’s great.
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