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February 6, 2013

Oneonta legend back in a kitchen

Elena Doyle, a longtime Oneonta restaurateur, is back in a Main Street kitchen.

Doyle, who operated Elena’s Sweet Indulgence and Elena’s Pastry/Café, which closed in July 2010, is one of three chefs working the Collage Food Boutique, a cross-cultural experiment in mixing and matching Asian, Caribbean and Italian fare.

“We call it ‘Puertalianese,’” said Frank Lopez, who is advising Collage owner Zi Jin Wu.

For Doyle, it’s another chance to serve what she called “an extended family” in Oneonta.

“The customers … were never like customers to me,” she said.

“I did every birth, every communion, every bar mitzvah,” she added. “You get to be just so part of their lives.”

Zi Jin, or “Kyle” to his American family, emigrated from Chengdu, China, in April. For him, too, there’s a family connection. Jin Lan, Lopez’s wife, is his aunt.

“He is a trained chef,” Lopez said, adding that Zi Jin specializes in southwestern Chinese dishes.

“That’s all he knows. He’s not well-versed in what other Chinese folks do. He brings his own stuff. That’s exciting: Asian desserts, as well as foods.

“I thought that Oneonta would be a good start for him. My wife and I help him. I’m kind of a consultant to him. I know the business. I’m spending time with him, getting his business going.”

The eatery opened without fanfare six weeks ago, but an official opening is planned for 5:30 p.m. next Wednesday in cooperation with the Otsego County Chamber. Samples of Collage’s food will be available.

Lopez, a Bronx native with ties to the Oneonta area going back to his days as a SUNY Oneonta student, brings his own expertise to the table: “Puerto Rican, Cuban, I do a fusion Cuban, Spanish, Caribbean.

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