Pastry has been the passion of Antoine Vasse’s life.
The 55-year-old Fly Creek resident will launch Antoine’s Bakery Cafe & Restaurant at 6068 state Route 28 in Fly Creek later this spring.
The cafe opening, Vasse said, will be the icing on a culinary journey begun as a child in France.
“When I was a kid, this was all I wanted to do,” he said. “I always said, I will be a pastry chef, since kindergarten. I come from a poor family and to be a pastry chef is entering paradise. I always have a passion for this. You see movies with nice parties at a table and there’s the extravagance of having a beautiful meal and … always having a good time at that table. No matter what your income is, the best time is with friends and family at a dining room table and this is from where comes my passion for food.
“I came to America in 1990, to Westchester County,” Vasse continued. “In 2006, I became a citizen and … after a number of years, life took me to upstate New York. If I knew the beauty of upstate New York, I would’ve moved many years ago. I ended up just outside of Cooperstown and … was the executive pastry chef at the Otesaga Hotel from 2012 to 2013. Then I decided to open my own business and I am in Windham (at La Patisserie Normande) since 2014.”
Opening Antoine’s, Vasse said, is part culinary culmination and part commitment to his adopted community.
“I live down the street and I bought a farm for the scenery and it’s time now to bring back a little bit of life in Fly Creek,” he said. “The (cafe) building is very charming — it’s magnificent — and I’m very proud to bring something back, something different, to Fly Creek. When we can, we are going to work with as many local products as possible on the pastry side and restaurant side.
“I feel comfortable with this,” Vasse continued, “because I have done it my whole life. This is my last place ever, my last creativity and my own testament of the food, and I hope people will love it.”
The fare, Vasse said, will run the gamut, drawing on his education in France, individual style and customer demand. Specialties, he said, include wedding cakes, brioche, pan au chocolat, danish and even a line of gluten-free pastries.
“I need to feel the demands of the people first, because I have so much diversity — cookies, wedding cakes, pies, tarts, whatever you name — so I need to feel for a while how people respond to the product and what they like,” he said. “People can visualize an upgrade to their table for any reason — baptism, birthdays, any aspect — and having the signature of the meal be made by the dessert.
“A lot of people have the capability to cook … and everything is advanced in America, but when it comes to dessert, the country needs an upgrade,” Vasse continued. “And I have that in the tip of my finger. I did, over the years, pick up a little bit of ideas from everywhere I learn — my cooking is based on everything I catch from everybody — and I have my own style and things you cannot find anywhere.”
Vasse said his food pays homage to those culinary beliefs, as well as shifting consumer trends.
“As soon as I open the store at 8 o’clock in Windham, everything has just come out of the oven and the croissant are nice and warm,” he said. “It is difficult to work this way, but that’s the way I want it. (At Antoine’s) I promise to be open at 6 a.m. to accommodate the people who are going to the hospital. It’s a large diversity of employees … that hopefully would be very appreciative of a nice warm croissant.
“The world becomes more modern,” Vasse continued, “but the world wants to go back to this earth product, this kind of farm-to-table aspect. I like everything the old-fashioned way and I work the old-fashioned way. There is no product bought from a company baked and resold; I refuse to work this way. I make everything, period — brioche, croissant, danish dough, and all of these recipes I learned when I was an apprentice.”
Beyond hospital employees, Vasse said, he hopes to attract a varied clientele.
“I feel it is my responsibility to accommodate everybody,” he said. “I’ve had many people contact me and tell me that they’re excited to hear the news and asking when it is opening. People remember my name because I was in Cooperstown before and people know what to expect from my store in Windham, so in many aspects, I have people from many different generations.”
The restaurant portion of Antoine’s, Vasse said, will follow the bakery, once dine-in concerns related to COVID-19 have lessened. The sweeter side of things, he said, will inform the savory.
“In France, when we learn in a pastry shop … because of the dough, we do appetizers as well,” he said. “So, (I will offer) a ham and cheese croissant, or a quiche to take home and heat up. Because I work with a lot of different dough, it is out of the question for me to just put a spoon of mashed potato or a spoon of string bean on the plate; it would be recreated as a pastry or a tart or a pie, additional to the meat or fish of the day, so there is a passion behind it.”
For more information, including an opening date, look for a soon-to-come “Antoine’s Bakery Cafe & Restaurant” Facebook page.