One loves to cook, the other loves to bake. It was a match made in heaven—or, in culinary school.
Patrick Evans and Jason Becton met at the International Culinary Center in New York in 2007, just before graduation. Seven years, a marriage, and two kids later, they’re doing something they’ve been talking about since they first started dating: opening a restaurant. More specifically, MarieBette Cafe and Bakery, a European-style restaurant and bakery under one roof at the corner of Rose Hill Drive and Dale Avenue. Long-time artist Evans will scratch his creative itch baking breads and pastries that he’s been perfecting since his three-month stint in Spain after culinary school, and Becton, who said he never felt fulfilled by his previous career as an ad salesman, will run the kitchen.
“I stopped seeing the reason I wanted to be an artist,” said Evans. “It seemed like it was more about the money than the art. So food was back to the basics. You know, everyone’s gotta eat.”
Becton echoed the sentiment, adding that he’d always loved entertaining and the line-cook side of the food industry, so opening a restaurant just made sense. The couple said they wanted a smaller, quieter place to raise their kids after so many years living and working in New York and New Jersey, so in June of this year they settled down in Charlottesville, where Evans grew up.
“It’s hard to have a restaurant in New York. You can get great reviews, dump a lot of money into it and still be closed in a year or two,” Becton said. “It seems like this is a much more business-friendly place. Everyone holds each other up. At least, that’s what I’ve heard.”
MarieBette—named after the couple’s two young daughters, Marian and Elizabeth—is divided into two distinct parts: the cafe counter and the dining room. The baristas behind the counter will be serving up coffee from La Colombe, a French-American roasting company known for its ecological and social consciousness. To go along with a morning latte or Americano will be baked classics like sticky buns, croissants, banana bread and cookies. Evans expects that anyone with a taste for French food will be pleased to see items like petit kouign amann—a buttery, flaky pastry—and canele de Bordeaux—a custard-filled pastry with a caramelized crust—on the menu. Also coming out of the ovens that recently arrived from France will be freshly baked baguettes, three types of sourdough, Picholine olive loaves and brioche.
“Baking is a very satisfying process,” Evans said. “It has a beginning, middle and end, and with my art background, it satisfies a similar need to produce.”
You won’t find many cakes on the menu for now, especially since so many local bakeries already have that covered, Evans said. But keep an eye on the dessert menu in the future, as the guys are working on recruiting a friend from New Jersey who specializes in baking and decorating elaborate cakes.
While Evans is downstairs up to his elbows in croissant dough and tart fillings, Becton will be upstairs in the kitchen, prepping breakfast and lunch on weekdays, and brunch on weekends.
“We both come from families where food was important,” Becton said. “My grandmother was a baker and a great cook, and I got a lot of inspiration from her.”
Breakfast options range from eggs-your-way and buttermilk pancakes to stuffed French toast and yogurt parfaits. Pastries served in a “bakery basket” (pick three) will also be available in the dining room. For later in the day, the lunch menu offers French onion soup, salads, quiches, locally themed sandwiches—like the Jefferson, with roasted pork loin, caramelized onions and stewed prunes—and hearty entrées like pappardelle with sausage and chicken pot pie. Don’t expect to order a Diet Coke with your lunch, but ginger ale and elderflower soda are on the drink menu, along with tea, juice, sparkling water and a selection of beer and wine.
While Evans and Becton didn’t have a specific opening date on the calendar at presstime, they said they hoped to be up and running right around Thanksgiving. Keep an eye on MarieBette’s Facebook page for updates.