by Bill Batson
Over the past 10 years, Nyack News and Views has profiled dozens of Nyack’s stores and shops, getting the backstory on their businesses and employees. Nyack’s friendly merchants, many of whom have been on Main Street and Broadway for decades, are a big part of what makes shopping in the village a special holiday experience.
Today we feature Didier Dumas, one of the 40 stories on local businesses that we’re sharing for the holidays.
“Didier Dumas is one of the most welcoming places in Nyack period,” proclaimed Carol Gannet about her favorite local eatery. Her enthusiasm for the establishment is not uncommon. In over ten years of operation as Nyack’s first French bakery, Didier has cultivated legions of loyal customers. But we almost lost this culinary treasure after a fire from a lightning strike in 2014 caused serious damage. Here’s our Q & A with Nyack favorite French pastry chef.
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 crepes 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 Monet did for water lilies in Giverny!
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 of managing a kitchen and a business?
Trying to spend as much time in the kitchen as I would like to, without 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 recipes.
Is there a new recipe that you are 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 of 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 a French bakery doing a good job they will come.
I like my location. We have become a destination. At evening time, it is more quiet 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.
Photo Credits: Didier Dumas (Nancy Eisen), Fire (Bill Demarest)
Patisserie Didier Dumas is located at 163 Main Street in Nyack, NY.
This story was originally published on 5/16/2017 as part of Nyack Sketch Log series.