Breaking Bread With Patisserie
The interview for this article took place in early January 2017. Sadly, co-owner Mark Edmonds passed away on February 13, just before going to press. To honor his memory and pay tribute to his craft, we are sharing his story and recipes here so that those who knew and loved him may remember him for his passion – creating food for others to enjoy.
This is a fast and delicious addition to a bowl of soup and makes for a healthy lunch or light dinner. Edmonds' advice was to search out the freshest produce and resist the temptation to add a lot of ingredients. Clean and simple was the way to go, he said. 12 ounces bread dough 4-6 stalks kale 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes salt and pepper to taste extra virgin olive oil Heat oven with pizza stone to 500˚F. Roll out dough into a 10-inch circle — it should be quite thin. Wash, dry and chop kale, including the stem, put in medium bowl and toss with a little olive oil. Add red pepper flakes, and toss some more. Spread the kale mixture over dough and season with salt and pepper. Load the flatbread onto the pizza stone and place in the oven. Bake for about 8 minutes. When the dough is nicely golden and crisp, remove the flatbread to the cutting board. Drizzle more olive oil over the whole flatbread. A little freshly cracked pepper and some finishing salt are a great touch. Cut into slices and serve. Bon appétit!
Crispy, Spicy Kale Flatbread from Patisserie
Mark Edmonds, co-owner of Patisserie, a French-inspired bakery and café on Old Dixie Highway, was on a mission — to resurrect ancient baking traditions using unprocessed heritage grains and heirloom flours. Of his breads, Edmonds remarked, “A lot of (gluten-intolerant) people find they can eat our breads. The fact that it’s real food and real ingredients along with the slow fermentation process means they can eat them and not get sick.”
Edmonds and his partner, Christian Garcia, have wowed customers with handcrafted baked goods since bringing their Milford, Pennsylvania bakery business to downtown Vero Beach’s art district in 2012. Capturing an untapped market, they immediately garnered an almost cult-like following, converting patrons — one crusty baguette at a time — to the idea that wholesome is hip.
Each morning, well before dawn, Edmonds could be found in his bakery following Old World traditions and fermentation techniques as he kneaded, shaped and proofed his dough for the daily specialties: pain d’epi (wheat stalk loaves), ciabatta, fruit and nut-infused sourdough, and the popular whole wheat Patisserie miche, made famous by the Parisian baker Lionel Poilâne. The enticing aroma of freshly baked goods and brewing coffee filled the air as the breakfast crowd arrived, and Garcia, front and center, welcomed regulars, greeted newcomers, and made sure everyone was happy.
Settling into a seat on the patio or any one of the well-spaced indoor tables, early risers could enjoy a petit déjeuner of flaky almond croissants, homemade granola, a quiche special or straight-from-the-oven hot buttered baguettes accompanied by locally roasted coffee or espresso. Rustic sandwiches like the turkey breast with cranberry chutney and goat cheese on apple walnut cranberry bread were featured on the lunch menu, as were any one of their delicious homemade soups, panini or savory croissants, as Parisian as any you would find across the Atlantic. Their Pinterest-worthy pastries, crafted by Marseilles-born chef Gerard Torre, who began baking when he was 14, were tempting treats to take home — if they actually made the car ride back.
“We try to make the best possible food with the best ingredients we can get,” said Edmonds, who searched out flours, farm produce and organic coffees from purveyors around the state and beyond. The lure was undeniable and their efforts did not go unnoticed. Their commitment to outstanding quality earned them repeated accolades as the “Best Bakery on the Treasure Coast,” as well as the coveted "Snail of Approval" award for incorporating local and sustainably grown products into their business.
The use of superior products, however, can pose problems for discerning bakers who strive to balance quality and cost. “That’s the challenge,” Edmonds confessed. “Right before Christmas, the cost of vanilla went through the roof, and we use vanilla in everything,” he said, noting the vast array of Viennoiserie baked every day. Undeterred, the partners were committed to making Patisserie the kind of place they would want to go, serving food they themselves would want to eat.
The pair arrived with a wealth of experience in both hospitality management and Old World baking. Garcia eschewed a degree in history from the State University of New York at Buffalo to work in sales and management for the Walt Disney Company on Broadway, an experience he says taught him to strive to be better than the day before.
Edmonds, who earned his degree in music and drama from Carnegie Mellon University, apprenticed alongside the pioneer of artisan breads, Amy’s Bread in New York City, and assisted in opening Fiorello Dolce Patisserie on Long Island. Their joint ventures included theater productions, managing an eco resort, gourmet shop and café in the Caribbean, and owning their first Patisserie, purchased from the Relais & Chateaux Hotel Fauchere in Milford, Pennsylvania.
Garcia described how they came to Florida. “We had a partner in that business who had a house in Vero Beach,” he explains. “So we would visit in the winter and were really attracted to the downtown area.” The minute a sign went up in the burgeoning arts district, they knew they had found their spot. “We had looked at many, many properties around town,” Garcia said. “Then we saw this stand-alone weird, purple building.”
Knocking down walls and installing glass block to allow light to stream in, they created a hip, industrial space with a minimalist sensibility. White walls sported the works of local artists, while concrete floors and counters rendered an urban feel. The look was clean and uncluttered, appealing in its simplicity. Tabletops, fashioned out of recycled water bottles, underscored their focus on reducing environmental waste.
Patisserie also served to anchor the vision of Main Street Vero Beach planners for a revitalized downtown area. As new restaurants, art galleries and markets thrived, the district came alive with a fresh, vibrant energy. Garcia said it was great to be part of the growth but admitted the thing that surprised them the most was the endearing sense of community spirit. “We liked the growth,” Edmonds confessed. “But the smallness was nice too.”
Having made this community their home, they sought to share their knowledge with others. To this end, Edmonds taught workshops in the summer months, demonstrating the art of naturally leavened, ancient grain and hand-mixed bread making. He explained how the triple deck, steam-injected oven helped to produce a shiny crust and why his membership in the Bread Bakers Guild of America guaranteed the absence of preservatives or dough extenders. Around Thanksgiving and Christmas, his pupils learned how to make holiday breads, stollen and cookies.
Last year they expanded to partner with McKee Botanical Garden, serving lunch and afternoon tea in their on-site café. In 2016, they took an active part in organizing the first annual Vero Beach Wine and Film Festival with Jerusha Stewart, an idea they said was hatched over a cup of coffee at Patisserie. Their mutual love of theater, opera, and the cultural arts made them a perfect fit for Vero Beach, where they were committed to supporting the various productions around town.
Florida Fields to Forks, a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm, made Patisserie their local drop-off point, delivering farm fresh eggs, organic fruits and vegetables, pasture-fed meats and artisan cheeses. Customers would place orders online and stop by the bakery to pick up their goods, making Patisserie so much more than a place to grab a bite. Their grassroots effort to bring people together over a plate of real food made this a place to reconnect — with people and with the land — and a place to feel good about supporting a local business as well as area farmers.
“Challenging the curious and passionate to imagine and deliver work that matters,” was the edict of Edmonds’ alma mater and became the ethos of Edmonds and Garcia. “We’ve been a part of people’s change of thought with them saying they can’t eat any other bread now,” Edmonds said. “I love getting people to eat more real food.”
“And giving them the best possible experience,” Garcia added.
We extend our sincerest condolences to Mark Edmonds' family, to his wide circle of friends and loyal patrons and most of all, to his partner, Christian Garcia. We wish Christian the best in his journey going forward.