by Bill Batson
“Didier Dumas is basically one of the most welcoming places in Nyack period,” proclaimed Carol Gannet about her favorite local eatery. And to show her appreciation for the hospitality, Gannett commissioned me to create a portrait of the patisserie as a Christmas present for pastry chef and owner, Didier Dumas.
Her enthusiasm for the establishment is not uncommon. In seven years of operation as Nyack’s only French bakery, Didier has cultivated legions of loyal customers.
A recent interview reveals the recipe for his culinary success, his own affection for his guests and the existence of a secret ingredient in his future plans.
When did you realize that you wanted to be a pastry chef?
That was as far back as I can remember. As a child in Marseille, I was always looking in the window of the neighborhood bakery wondering how they were making these cakes. The shop was owned by Mr. Zeppini. He became my mentor
After growing up in New York City with a French bakery just around the corner, I’m happy to have Didier Dumas right down the street in Nyack. I have tried almost everything in his cases and it’s all delicious, from his small sized desserts to his wonderful crapes and sandwiches.
Didier proves it’s not location, location location, it’s product. If you serve something authentic, people will come.
Nothing had succeeded there until Didier opened. I have never seen a business do that well so fast and in the process, he has extended Main Street.
This man, this artist, has the hands of Monet; with butter and flour and sugar rather than paint. He does for pastry in Nyack what Money did for water lilies in Giverny!
I would make a special trip up to this ‘burb’ of Manhattan they call Nyack just to enjoy Didier’s again.
American Woman M from Yelp
Was there anyone else who inspired you to enter the culinary arts?
One person who inspired me was my grandmother. She was always baking something, flan, or pies or tarts. My aunt was also always baking at my grandparents farm. I started by baking cream puffs and puff pastries with her.
What brought you to Nyack?
I used to work and live in Westchester. I came to Nyack to study Kung Fu on Main St. I fell in love with Nyack. It felt like a friendly neighborhood with a lot of people always going out. I said to myself, ‘ a french bakery could be a nice addition to this lovely town.’
When did Didier Dumas open for business?
November 2006, a few days before Thanksgiving.
How is Nyack similar to where you grew up?
In French cities, you have a lot of different little neighborhoods; where you work, shop, and eat. Each neighborhood in the city is like a little village.
Nyack reminds me of some of the neighborhoods in Marseille. People in Nyack walk around and say hi. They know each other. They are very warm.
I didn’t have this feeling when I lived in Westchester. I lived there for seven years and needed my car for everything. After seven years, I didn’t really know anyone.
What is the biggest challenge managing a kitchen and a business?
Trying to spend as much time in the kitchen as I would like to, withouth neglecting the other aspects of the business, like spending time with my accountant, doing some paper work, dealing with the employees, talking to customers.
I noticed a lot of young people work at your patisserie. Are you passing on your craft to the next generation?
I do my best to teach the people at the counter to be familiar with the product, to try the pastries so that they can answer questions for the customers.
In the kitchen, I have them for a few years so I am teaching them to be pastry chefs from the beginning. I try to show them the love in a job well done. I train them the way that I was trained when I started.
What are your favorite desserts to prepare?
I don’t have a favorite anymore. I used to when I was younger. What I like the most to do now in the kitchen is create new receipes.
Is there a new recipe that you rare particularly proud of?
That would be my signature dessert, the Royal Chocolate Cake.
What are your favorite desserts to eat?
It depends on my mood. I eat a piece of pastry on a daily basis sometimes, a macaroon or a slice cake.
What is the busiest time of the year?
The end of the year is the busiest time for me. It’s like a three course meal: Thanksgiving is the appetizer, Christmas is the main course, and New Years’ is dessert.
What have been some of the challenges to having a business above Franklin Street?
At the beginning, people told me that it was not a good location, that it was too far from downtown. I did not see it this way. I think if people know that there is French bakery doing a good job they will come.
I like my location. We have become a destination. At evening time, it is more quite than downtown. In the summer, there is not that much noise so you can sit outside and enjoy your pastry. We also have parking right across the street.
Several people that I have spoken to describe your bakery as one of their favorite things about Nyack. What are some of your favorite things about the village?
My favorite thing about Nyack are my customers. From the beginning they have always come first. I have made friendships. I have been invited to New Years’ parties, barbeques, and Easter dinners, especially when my family from France is here.
You feature local artists on your walls and offer jazz concerts on summer evenings. Who organizes your cultural activities?
People have come to me to initiate these projects. The person who does the jazz concerts, Ray Levier, is someone I studied Kung Fu with. The concerts start in the spring and are held every other week through the summer.
As far as the art on the wall, it happens the same way. The artists come to me with their work.
Any future plans you’d like to share?
That’s a secret!
Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Nyack Sketch Log: Didier Dumas” © 2014 Bill Batson. To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com