048 – Jason Becton and Patrick Evans, MarieBette Café & Bakery
Bread Work. In France, the boulangerie or bakery is the epicenter of any great neighborhood. Folks stop in daily for fresh bread and pastries, sharing news of the day, making small talk, and commiserating over neighborhood issues. Not just a place to pick up simple, delicious food made with yeast, salt, and water but a gathering place. A community space. Meet Jason Becton and Patrick Evans of MarieBette Café & Bakery who are accomplishing the same thing in the Rose Hill neighborhood of Charlottesville, Virginia.
MarieBette just won numerous accolades in the Best of Cville Awards, including “Best Pastry” and “Best Bakery”. There’s a reason everyone who visits me requests a trip to this great bakery and neighborhood family restaurant serving lunch and brunch. Not dinner because from the moment they started, Jason and husband Patrick made a commitment to be home in time to eat with their children, Marian and Betty, the bakery’s namesakes.
Jason started in advertising before heading to culinary school and working in restaurants like The Four Seasons and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. Patrick followed a similar route, working at Dan Barber’s Blue Hill, then several bakeries throughout Manhattan. Working in all of these different environments taught both what they wanted for their own business. Simple, tasty, ingredient-driven dishes. Fresh herbs. Seasonal, local ingredients with no heavy sauces. Not exclusively French but European inspired.
So they moved from New York to Charlottesville, where Patrick has roots. Neither one had ever owned a business. How did they develop their plan? The answer will surprise you! MarieBette is the result of that plan, a family place in the truest sense of the word. Patrick’s father’s paintings adorn the walls. His mother upholstered all of the seating. And together Jason and Patrick work to ensure each side of the establishment thrives and complements the other.
Partners in life and terrific partners in business. Don’t miss the story of how they met. It’s the ultimate chef-related “Meet Cute” if you ask me. Patrick handles the bread while Jason handles the restaurant side. They separate responsibilities to match their working styles and personalities, operating a flourishing business together. If you’ve ever tried to eat brunch on a Saturday you know what I mean. Does being married offer up special challenges to running a business? What was one major argument involving a popular bakery item? Listen to find out!
Patrick makes each croissant, baguette, and pastry by hand every day. Most places get their croissant dough shipped due to the amount of work. So that’s really something. Everything is authentically European, so it’s never a bomb of sugar. I’ve learned so much about French pastry since MarieBette opened. And after tasting their canelés and kouign-amann I’m spoiled for anything else.
Not to mention the brioche feuilletée! What happens to a small bakery when one of their pastries goes viral? A blessing or a curse? This is what happened last year when local food writer C. Simon Davidson ate one, fell in love, coined the term “bronut”, and off it went. Lines around the block. Eater, Food & Wine, and other major sites hounded them. Demands came in from around the country. But shipping bronuts? Out of the question because they wouldn’t taste as good. They still sell out and the day I was there the platter sat empty, a testament to just how delicious this brioche/croissant hybrid really is.
The restaurant side is equally stellar. Terrific sandwiches and seasonal salads, great mains like Quiche Lorraine. Salad Niçoise that’s out of this world. But brunch remains my favorite. Classic Oeufs En Cocotte, eggs baked in a water bath till they are just done and finished with cream, garlic, and fines herbs. Served with toast sticks for dipping. Yum. And it’s not all bread and brunch. MarieBette also hosts a monthly wine and cheese tasting as part of the Charlottesville Alliance Française, part of a national nonprofit organization promoting French and French culture. Check out their Facebook page for updates on these great events.
Is Charlottesville a utopia of acceptance for LGBT-owned businesses? We discuss this important issue and the triumphs and challenges it can bring to a family considered nontraditional by some. Love is love folks. And family restaurants, no matter what form they take, help make a community stronger. Speaking of community, what about development in Rose Hill? Should we be excited? Worried? How does MarieBette fit in and what do the neighbors think? We talk about the growing pains Charlottesville is experiencing, including the growing parking problem in and around Preston Avenue.
You can find MarieBette bread at the Charlottesville City Market, Foods of All Nations, Threepenny Café, and JM Stock and Provisions. The energy in the space is so happy and positive, so much so after the interview I asked Jason if I could record future conversation there. I’m thrilled to say he said yes and I’m so grateful for this new partnership.
This was one fantastic conversation, both for the topics and because Jason has such a great laugh! Even though Patrick couldn’t join us, he was hard at work downstairs developing the next delicious creation. I can’t wait to devour it! Now go listen guys. I’m headed downstairs to inhale an olive baguette. Yum.
SHOW NOTES – Links to resources talked about during the podcast:
- Taste This! – Jason is on the board of Meals on Wheels and helped organize this year’s event to benefit that important organization. More than 25 area restaurants offer up their best morsels for your enjoyment. September 20th at the Boar’s Head Inn!
- Charlottesville Pie Fest – Do you have what it takes? Register your pie at the link! Can’t master pie crust yet? Then show up and eat a slice to benefit the Crozet United Methodist Church Food Pantry. October 9th at Crozet Mudhouse.
- Appalachian Food Summit – In its 3rd year, this summit started over a discussion on Facebook as to whether or not cornbread contains sugar. Its mission is to educate everyone on the valuable contributions Appalachia has made to food culture, and to celebrate its vibrant and thriving foodways. We’re not living in the past people! Appalachian food is alive and well, growing and changing all the time. Experience it for yourself!
- Virginia Festival of the Book – Are you a restaurant owner willing to donate your space for a food event? Then VA Festival of the Book wants to talk to you! Contact me for more details.
This episode is sponsored by MarieBette Café & Bakery.
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