Serge Torres and Brian Helleberg are joining forces to bring a taste of Provence to the Downtown Mall.
The Fleurie pastry chef (Torres) and owner (Helleberg) have opened Patisserie Torres on Third Street NE, directly across from Fleurie Restaurant, in the space once occupied by Cappellino’s Crazy Cakes.
The patisserie is the culmination of Helleberg’s desire to find the right space in which to showcase Torres’ baking talents.
“Serge has been trapped in a tiny space in the Fleurie kitchen, so it’s hard to shine,” Helleberg says, adding that a holiday in Provence with its beautiful pastry shops reinforced how much he wanted to undertake this project. “As Serge said, ‘it’s a little accent from the South of France here in Charlottesville.’”
Torres, who trained in France before working as an assistant pastry chef at Le Cirque and Le Périgord in Manhattan, came to Charlottesville to work with Patricia Kluge at her vineyard and the long-defunct Fuel restaurant. He joined Fleurie two and a half years ago.
The pair plans to use locally sourced products whenever possible to produce high-quality pastries, savory tarts, and sandwiches, salads, and soups that will be easy to grab on the go without having to wait in a long line for a meal.
Pastries to look for include the tarte tropézienne, with layers of brioche and pastry cream; a passionfruit baba au rhum, a rum cake topped with passionfruit sabayon cream; and chocolate brioche feuilletée.
There will also be classic French pâtés on the menu, as Helleberg says he’s got a terrific charcuterie person working part-time now, ensuring maximum use of the meats he brings in for the restaurant.
“Serge is really great at pastries; he’s been doing it for 40 years. So it’s the intersection of Serge creating pastries and what our fabulous charcuterie guy can do—it’s the triple Lutz of the culinary world, getting in whole meat and not wasting any of it, instead turning every bit into something flavorful,” he says. “That’s why French cuisine is so attractive. With classic chefs, nothing ever goes to waste. It’s our little ecosystem, looking for the outlet for something that’s not the rack of lamb that a customer might want to order at Fleurie, that can then be wrapped in puff pastry and taste delicious.”
Helleberg says he’s a fan of the chicken feuilletés. “It’s like a really refined hot pocket,” he says of the puff pastry with chicken salad.
The new space will also allow Torres—cousin of the venerated chocolatier Jacques Torres—to create custom cakes such as the croquembouche (pastry balls stacked into a tall conical shape and threaded with drizzled caramel), as well as wedding cakes. And he intends to eventually offer cooking classes on Sundays.
Patisserie Torres will have limited seating in front of the shop.
Initial hours of operation will be 7:30am to 3:30pm Wednesday through Saturday, with plans to extend to Tuesday.