by Joseph H. RADDER
Vincent Carriere is a 30-year veteran of the restaurant industry, a champion of fresh
fine food since his college internship as a chef-apprentice in some of the finest
restaurants in France. He came to this country via Canada in 1974 to work at Buffalo's
Park Lane. Then, after 19 years as executive chef and vice president for Delaware North,
he found himself traveling 250,000 miles per year.
"When I turned 50, I thought it was time to make a change" he said. "I looked around and I couldn't find anything that didn't involve travel. So I decided to create a new company."
At the turn of the century, Vincent met with his friend and restaurateur, Michael Militello, and suggested that, together, they form a new food service company. They named it Food Art Concessions, doing business as Bijou Cafes. The latter name, of course, was taken from Militello's downtown restaurant, the Bijou Grille. The idea was to create coffee kiosks, serving fresh pastries, salads, and sandwiches. Their first venues were the Kaleida Hospitals.
|Michael Militello and Vincent Carriere.|
Carriere's passion for freshness carries through to these kiosks. Bijou Café operates a commissary in the Tri-Main Building. Here bakers arrive seven nights a week at midnight to begin baking for the day's customers. At 5:30 a.m. all of these baked goods are transported to all the locations. At 6 a.m. chefs take over the commissary to prepare fresh sandwiches and salads. These are then delivered to the kiosks by 10 am. Nothing is carried over to the next day. Everything is strictly fresh, according to Vincent Carriere's number one rule. The aroma of the coffee announces its extreme freshness. 50,000 pounds a year are roasted especially for Food Art Concessions according to their specifications (ninety-five percent Columbian, five percent Kona).
Not only is the focus on freshness, but on genuinely friendly service as well. "We focus on service, we focus on smiles, we focus on 'Good Morning, Sir, Good morning Ma'm." Carriere enthused.
In 2003, Vincent Carriere and Michael Militello opened the Sonoma Grille in Snyder. This fine dining restaurant will be the subject of Chapter Two in this series next month.
Growth is the key word at Food Art Concessions. Beginning with five employees, the company now employs over 200 people. Their sales goal for the current year is $10 million! - This is indeed refreshing news in an area where one hears so much about business closings, down-sizings, and lay-offs.
Carriere and Militello are most proud of the fact that "Food Art Concession is one of the most successful privately-owned companies in Buffalo." Sports venues too are on the FAC list, there's the Pepsi Center and now plans include expansion into race tracks. "We have just signed a contract with Batavia Downs to manage their operations. That's about a $2 million business in itself." Look for more about these exciting people in Living Prime Time next month.
Joseph H. Radder is a freelance writer.
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