Slipping into town with little fan-fare, internationally acclaimed chef Marc Poidevin is rapidly transforming Rowayton's dining scene. The former executive chef at Le Cirque in New York City and at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, Poidevin took ownership, with his wife Margaret, of the historic Rowayton Market a few months ago.
Local foodies have already delivered rave reviews for the daily luncheon buffet--featuring grilled and poached salmon, shrimp kabobs, calamari and a variety of sauteed seasonal vegetables. Customers come in for lunch and bring home dinner, Poidevin said.
"I think people got tired of eating sandwiches every day for lunch," he stated. "They're looking for simple, healthy food. People who work around the area can come in and choose from the buffet or from the various salads and entrees that we have in the case and take them outside to eat on our waterfront deck."
Trained at a prestigious culinary school in the South of France, where he grew up, Poidevin quickly rose up the ranks and, at the age of 22, was named sous chef for the renowned "Moulin de Mougin" restaurant on the French Riviera.
While working at the Plaza Athenee in Manhattan in 1986, he met his wife, Margaret. A year later, they were married. A graduate of New York University, Margaret now manages the daily operations of the Rowayton Market. The couple commutes daily from their Weston home to work 12-hour days.
"We think it's important to put in the time, the long days, now, to get our business up and running," Margaret explained.
Moving back to the East Coast in 2007, the Poidevin family initially sought to open an upscale restaurant, similar to those in Marc's background. In his easygoing, down-to-earth manner, Marc recalls working closely with the infamous Steve Wynn as he helped him to open the iconic Le Cirque at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. "He's a tremendous genius," Poidevin said. "In his agenda, failing is not an option. There is no negativity. His vision for projects was very clear."
Poidevin brings this work ethic to the Rowayton Market.
"Marc loves to cook," said Margaret. "Cooking is not a `job' to him. He's one of the lucky ones who loves what he does."
When the couple couldn't find the right location to open a restaurant, and learned that the Rowayton Market was available, they immediately were attracted to the quaint waterfront site.
Margaret said, "Rowayton is a special place. When we came to look at it, I loved the building and the deck. I loved the view and that the Market was located on the water, overlooking the Five Mile River."
She also pointed out that there was a definite potential for expanding the market to include a bistro. "Marc took some convincing because he's used to working in high-end restaurants," Margaret admitted. "However, he likes having the direct contact with the clients that he gets here."
Joined by their sons, Nicholas, who graduated from the French Culinary Institute in New York city, and Sidney, 16, who works part-time, they're getting to know the many loyal customers who stop by regularly for fresh produce, specialty coffees and delicious prepared food to go.
"It's become like a little family here," Poidevin stated. "I'm getting to know what they like to eat and to drink."
With a smile, Poidevin admitted that, when he first arrived, he didn't know what the community would enjoy eating. He noticed that there are many people who like to eat healthy and vegetarian meals.
"They don't want foods that are too sophisticated," Poidevin said. "On the luncheon buffet I like to have vegetables grilled with a little olive oil and steamed. I also put out a red meat, white meat, some fish and a seafood pasta."
An experienced pastry chef, Poidevin has also recently launched several different types of cookies that he hopes to package and sell to other merchants. A unique cookie he created, called The Crisp, is a light, macaroon-like confection that is made with almonds, pistachios and roasted honey peanut flavors. He also bakes a French cookie, called "palmier," or "elephant ears," sugar cookies, Madelines and Florentin, which is made from an old recipe from the South of France.
Like many top-level chefs trained abroad, Poidevin learned the art of pastry-making during his studies and he served as head pastry chef at the Westbury Hotel for seven years when he first moved to the United States.
"Rowayton is a huge cookie town," Poidevin noted. "In fact, I now call it `Cookie Town.' Mothers come in every afternoon for their cookies with their kids."
Stephanie Wisner, an employee at the Rowayton Market for five years, and Rowayton resident, enthusiastically welcomes the Poidevin family to town.
"They're a breathe of fresh air," she stated. "Marc and Margaret are serious about the food business. I tell people he's the real deal. I don't think we could ask for anything more."
Poidevin is available for private, full-service catered and parties with menus that range from simple fare to gourmet traditional French cuisine. As executive chef of catering for special events for Wynn Resorts, he was often called upon to cater large-scale, celebrity weddings and other special occasions for more than 2,000 guests. Smiling, Poidevin noted that he is also available -- and delighted -- to cook more intimate parties for the local community.
The new Rowayton Market is located at 157 Rowayton Ave. For information, call 203-852-0011 and go to marcsrowaytonmarket.com.