Fresh, delicious, and made to order? Mais oui.
By Diana Simeon
Growing up in France, Anthony Vicente developed his passion for cooking — and fresh, delicious food — early on. You could say it runs in the family.
“I was born into a family that loved to eat,” says the Shaker resident and owner of Flying Garlic, which offers both catering and personal chef services. “My grandfather, Marcel, gardened every day and my grandmother, Madeleine, was a really good cook,” he says. “Every Saturday, they opened their home to their children, their grandchildren, and anybody else who wanted to stop by. We could be 25 people around the table each weekend.”
Vicente’s mother and aunts inherited their parents’ love of good food. “One of my aunts specialized in game; my mother was more oriented toward world cuisine,” he notes.
By the time he was a teenager, Vicente had decided to become a chef. He enrolled at the Paris-based Ferrandi French School of Culinary Arts, which was founded in 1920 and ranks among France’s top culinary arts schools. He then went on to work at several Paris restaurants, including the Michelin-star rated La Tour D’Argent (two stars) and Pierre Gagnaire (three stars). A three-star Michelin rating is the highest a restaurant can earn; such restaurants are considered among the best in the world.
By the early 2000s, Vicente was working as a sous chef at Paris’s popular L’Epi Dupin. It’s what’s known as a “bistronomic” restaurant. Think of it as a restaurant serving Michelin quality food, but minus the fancy trappings — silver, crystal, white tablecloths — that Michelin restaurants must have to make the cut. The focus is on the quality of the food.
Then in 2006, Vicente’s wife, Dr. Peggy Robinet, was offered a post-doctoral fellowship at the Lerner Research Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. (Today, she’s a research associate at the Institute and an adjunct assistant professor at the Lerner College of Medicine.)
The couple decided to make the move and Vicente soon found work in Cleveland’s burgeoning restaurant scene, first with Doug Katz at fire in Shaker Square, then as executive chef for Taste on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights.
After his son was born, Vicente began contemplating a change. He’d been helping out a caterer friend who was looking to wind down his business. “When he needed help with a big party, he would call me,” says Vicente. Over time, the friend began referring his customers to Vicente, who soon also started getting calls from new customers.
An added bonus: Vicente could spend more time with his son, since catering is mostly a weekend affair. So, three years ago, Vicente officially launched his business, Flying Garlic.
Now he caters on the weekends and works as a personal chef during the week. Vicente develops every menu from scratch for his clients. “We’ll work together. You tell me what you have in mind, how many people, and anything else. Using the information, I set up a menu and we’ll go back and forth until you are happy. Every menu is different from the next. Everything is customized,” he explains.
He favors fresh, locally available ingredients, often shopping at area farmer’s markets for his customers and growing his own herbs during the summer. “Everything is fresh. I buy it and prepare it just for you,” he says.
And his repertoire isn’t limited to French cuisine, though he’s happy to prepare it when asked, including French-inspired desserts, for which he has a particular fondness. (Check out Flying Garlic’s Facebook page for a photo of a mouthwatering chocolate tart with mascarpone Chantilly cream and salted caramel sauce he made for Teacher Appreciation Week at Fernway School.)
Says Vicente, “It could be barbeque, Asian, Mexican, French, or whatever. It all depends on what the customers want. I’m here to make them happy.”
For a recent event at the Transformer Station — the Ninth Annual Life Drawing Competition — Vicente’s summer menu included watermelon “pizza” slices topped with crumbled feta and fresh mint, a tomato-citrus gazpacho, and tacos with sautéed onions and peppers, a cilantro pesto, and fi nished with a creamy chipotle sauce.
“Everything is fresh. I buy it and prepare it just for you.”
For a fundraiser for Save the Children last spring, it was red and golden beet bruschetta with goat cheese and honey cream, zucchini salad with anchovy cream and deviled eggs, a hearty beef bourguignon, and molten-style chocolate cake topped with vanilla ice cream nestled between French-style tuiles and drizzled with a raspberry coulis.
His personal chef clients also get this custom touch. A preliminary interview helps Vicente figure out a client’s preferences. Says Vicente, “If you lived in Asia for ten years, then I can be pretty sure you will enjoy this kind of food. Or if you don’t like chicken, I will know to never suggest a chicken dish.”
Menus are determined week by week. “I send you suggestions and you make your choices,” he explains.
Vicente then buys the groceries and prepares the meal in his client’s kitchen. Recent dishes have included a savory tuna tart, chickpea tikka masala, and coconut barley risotto — healthy, home-cooked meals that await clients when they arrive home from a busy day at the office.
“I label everything, put it in your fridge, and you just need to warm it up,” Vicente says. “The idea is to make your life easier.”