Published: May 9, 2017
The BID sat down with Kathy Knight and learned that her kids’ constant demands for crêpes on a family vacation led to Denver's Crêpes 'n Crêpes restaurant. Knight and co-owner, Alain Veratti, have created an eclectic, European-style dining experience for any time of the day. What started as a cart at local farmers markets is about to expand into another Denver location.
How did you get started in the restaurant business?
I was in the restaurant business from the age of 15 to the age of 31 while I put myself through college. I moved to Denver from Nebraska after graduate school. I had a degree in social work. I ran a foster care agency for 15 years, and was in the social work field for over 25 years. I have always liked working with people, but in the restaurant business my customers are happy.
Alain was actually the private chef for Bill Daniels when we met. He would cater a huge lunch spread for 60 to 70 people every day. When Bill Daniels died, Alain had to find new work. That’s when we joined forces. We went to Europe for three weeks, to Arles, Provence and Montpellier. My kids wanted crêpes all the time. Twice a day. We decided we should bring home a crêpes cart and try having some fun at the farmers market. So we did and I still have that cart stored in my garage. Ultimately, we had two more carts made and were at several farmers markets in Denver and Boulder.
So Crêpes ‘n Crêpes started as a series of food carts in 2002, and then…
…and then we got our start in Cherry Creek North with 738 square feet in 2004.
As your restaurant grew in popularity, you expanded into adjacent—somewhat mismatched—spaces. Why was it important for you to stay in Cherry Creek North?
Foot traffic is awesome. There are thousands of people who live here and they love to walk over and eat. Our big draw here is our front patio and the walking. People just love to walk over. Also, we’re not expensive; we’re reasonable.
I like to think of our restaurant space as “eclectic.” It’s very French.
It really does feel like a cultural experience when you step inside. How have you cultivated that feeling?
It’s important that this place feel very “French,” so we do French onion soup. We only do French wines. We only do French beers except, Alain’s not happy with me about this, but I brought in some IPA’s because younger people want that option. Our tablecloths are even made in France. We have them specifically made by a seamstress over there to fit our tables. Our music is French. Our wall colors are very French. Everything in France is a little eclectic, old stuff with new stuff and that’s the feeling we want to have here.
Let’s talk crêpes. Is a crêpe merely a wrapper around a masterpiece, or is its flavor important too?
You want your crêpe to have flavor, just the plain crêpe should have flavor. Just recently, was in Mexico and had a crêpe just to taste it, but it had no taste to it. It was soggy. You don’t want that kind. So the beginning of the process, which is the flour, is important. And then you add your ingredients and it combines to a really delicious meal, together. One can’t go without the other.
The art of crêpe making is actually very beautiful to watch. It’s a very fluid motion. Is there special training involved?
Yes, we take our new employees to a commissary, or kitchen, where we have our griddles. We work with them for a week on turning the crêpe. It takes time…a lot of time and precision. So the tool you hold is called the “T” and it has a special weight in it. You have to get used to the weight of it and start learning how to turn with the correct weight. If you push too hard, you’ll rip it. And if you’re too light, it will be too thick.
What menu item would you recommend for someone with a really robust appetite…someone who thinks a crêpe cannot be filling?
We would suggest the chicken poulet. The chicken poulet is white breast meat in a white cream mushroom sauce with fresh mushrooms and a little salt and pepper mixed in. We put that in a crêpe and put ementhaler cheese on top, fold it, crisp it and then put more ementhaler cheese on the outside. It’s very fulfilling.
I’ve also seen people order crêpes with as little on them as lemon and sugar…
…Especially when foreign people come in. They’re used to butter or lemon and that’s it.
And I hear you’ve got some exciting news to share before we wrap up?
Yes, we are opening a third shop! It will be at 3000 Zuni Street. In the LoHi area. We are in the process of getting it ready and we hope to have a soft open some time in May and be fully open in June.
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