THE RECIPE BOX - Local couple bringing a bit of European flair to Smithfield

THE RECIPE BOX - Local couple bringing a bit of European flair to Smithfield

SMITHFIELD – Growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa, Natacha Legein saw things that still are scary to think about. There were civil wars and sometimes bodies in the street, she said.

Her mom was from Congo and her dad from Belgium, and Natacha was the child of a mixed marriage. That did not mean anything to her until in 1992, the year her father passed away, when she and her mom left the capital city of Kinshasa and went to Belgium to live. Folks on her dad’s side were not accepting then, she shared.

She and her mother stayed in Belgium, Natacha just 13 years old. Her native language was French and Lingala and at the age of 19 she came to the United States to live with an aunt who’d been here for more than 30 years.

“I came by myself, and did not go to school here,” she said. But she did learn the English language at first from her aunt – who spoke English in their home – and later by sheer determination. “If I had read a book in French I would go to the Barnes and Noble and buy the same book in English and teach myself to read it,” Natacha shared. The same was true of movies, she said, watching an already-viewed movie and then watching it over again in English.

This young woman was determined to learn and to advance in the workplace. Her first job was at a Panera Bread as a cashier. Her easy-going and kind demeanor made it easy for her customers to want to come back. One such customer – a mortgage broker – offered her a challenge to learn the mortgage industry.

She was a little panicked stating that there was no such thing as a mortgage or a loan in Africa. “If you bought a house, it was cash or you rented,” she said. But the man offered her a 60-day trial and said he’d take her under his wing and if she could close on a house he’d hire her. So back to Barnes and Noble – to buy books about mortgages and loans – went Natacha.

Her next steps career-wise involved banking in Boston, but the economy tanked during this period and she went back to Panera seeking a managerial position. They gave her a position as “manager of catering” and said if she could increase sales she’d move up. She did move up and eventually was promoted to assistant manager overall.

That was going well except in the interim she had a baby boy and missed being home with him. “There was no time to see my son,” Natacha said. “It made me cry and feel very unhappy.” He is a boy with autism and she needed to be with him as he needed early interventions, therapies for speech. She ended up finding a job locally at a Citizens Bank third-shift call center to accommodate a schedule that worked for her son’s therapy schedules. This was where she met her husband, Anthony Adagboyi.

Today, they have two children, her 7-year-old boy and a 1-year-old baby girl and as of April 1, the couple will open their new business venture which will be called Crepe Corner. “It has always been a dream for me,” Natacha said, of owning her own business. “I knew that a location was going to be the key,” she said.

It was totally through a chance encounter that the location presented itself. A barbecue last July at a friend’s house connected Natacha and Anthony to the parent of the friend who had a property coming available behind the A&W on Route 44.

The very same location had been a crepe restaurant years ago, she said. Natacha said she had noticed a need in Smithfield for a real “European” coffee shop. By that she means crepes and real Belgian waffles. “I have ordered them (Belgian waffles) on menu’s here she said, but when they came it was not the real deal!”

Crepes can be sweet or savory and they will carry both types. A sweet crepe would have fruit, Nutella, or a praline filling. A savory could have ham, cheese and egg, she said. Or maybe a chicken, spinach and mushroom filling with a sauce for lunchtime. “Another difference is the pastry here, French pastries are much lighter and they are made with a sweet dough,” Natacha said. They do not have the same density or added sugar.

A house specialty will be crepes with a ginger/cinnamon filling that she has tested and perfected on both her friends and Anthony.

Look for Crepe Corner in early April. “You have never tasted anything like this before,” assured Anthony, who has been taste-test pilot for a good long time.


Crepes

Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp. sugar
1 pinch of salt
2 Tbsp. butter, melted

Directions:

Prep. – 10 min.

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and the eggs. Gradually add the milk and water, then the salt and butter. Beat until smooth.

2. Heat a frying pan with a little oil and pour 1/4 cup of the batter for each crepe. Tilt the pan with circular motion so that the batter coasts the surface evenly.

3. Cook the crepe until the bottom is light brown. Loosen with a spatula, turn and cook the other side. 

4. Serve your crepes hot. You can fill it with fruits, chocolate, or even something savory.

NATACHA LEGEIN and her husband ANTHONY ADAGBOYI, of Smithfield, will bring their European flair to a new restaurant they’ll call Crepe Corner.