Wilton Landmark Restaurant Celebrates Half-Century of Cuisine Française
WILTON – Take a journey back in time with us now, to a post-war liberated France in 1952 – specifically the city of Nancy in the Alsace-Lorraine region.
It was there that a young lady named Pierrette met her hero – a real-live American GI named Joseph Baldwin, who hailed from Glens Falls, New York. “To us, the American soldiers were our defenders.” Pierrette said.
A whirlwind romance ensued. They met in 1952 and were married in 1953—Pierrette’s father, who insisted that Joseph go home for a while to make sure, imposed the only delay in this. “If it’s real, he will be back,” Pierrette recalls him saying.
And soon he was. And so the young married couple came to the US. At first the charms of upstate proved elusive. “I hated it.” Pierrette noted “Big, cold and it was lonesome for a while as Joseph worked so hard (in HVAC). But a mission drove Joseph.
You see, while in France Joseph acquired a passion for French cuisine and he was determined to bring it to his home region. Though never trained in the culinary arts, let alone the rigors of French cooking, he was confident with his young bride’s guidance they would be able to plant a French flag on our region’s gastronomic landscape.
After many years of hard work, the Baldwin’s bought what was once called “The Birdcage” for the magnificent sum of $11,000. For that price, they got a building, but little else. “Everything was gone: no kitchen, furnishings. We had much still to do.” Pierrette said.
Fast forward to April 16, 1964. Chez Pierre opens to the public. Joseph imported a chef under contract, watched everything he did, and learned. “It took about three years for everything to click,” Pierrette said. “But people were delighted and recommending us to friends. We were unique and grateful for the reaction.”
This was from the beginning a family restaurant, as all the children have been involved at some point. The youngest is Pia, who met her hero Chef Lincoln Field at Paul Smith’s College where they were both getting hospitality-related degrees. While Ms. Pierrette is still a presence, particularly on the weekends “the customers would probably riot if they didn’t see her!” Pia says with a smile, it has been up to the Fields, with Lincoln rising through the ranks in the kitchen to become chef, with Pia in charge of the front of the house. Both of them are faithful to the restaurant’s traditions, yet bring are bringing their own personal touch to make sure Chez Pierre stays relevant for the next 50 years.
While Chef Lincoln has added some of his own signature dishes to the mix, he knows that “some people want the traditional plates that they have been having for decades” such as Beef Wellington and Lobster Newburg.
Pia has taken the reins in developing creative marketing – reaching out to a new generation with lighter fare on the menu, prix fixe dinners for $25 and an external presence at food festivals such as ‘the Taste of the North Country’ in recent years.
A signature annual event is their Bastille Day celebration – you want to be a part of their 50th,
let me assure you. I would highly recommend reservations immediately for this, for it is always out the door - (518) 793-3350.
But don’t wait until July to take a mini-vacation to France. Rumor has it that Mothers Day is coming. A perfect time for you to be your special someone’s American hero… très bon!
For more information, visit chezpierrerestaurant.com