There are a few places in town to order crepes, but none as dedicated to the French-style stuffed pancake as this brand new space near the Creighton campus. Over my caramel latte – crafted with house-made syrup and beans from Omaha roasters A Hill of Beans – I spoke with Head Chef Chase Grove and owners Didi and Derek Olsen for the scoop.
Tell us a bit about your culinary background. How did you get started in the restaurant industry?
Chase: I went to the Institute for Culinary Arts at Metro Community College, straight out of high school. I was able to travel a lot doing what we call stagiaire, which is going around to different places, in the city or regionally, and spending some time in different kitchens.
Derek: My background goes back about 16 years. I worked at a country club, and then at a restaurant called Prima 140. Then I headed to Donia, mostly bartending and serving. Then I stopped about ten years ago and went into construction management.
How did the Corner Creperie come to be?
Didi: From our travels, we had crepes in different places: the West Coast, East Coast, overseas…
Derek: We thought to ourselves, “Wouldn’t it be nice if Omaha had a place that was exclusively making crepes?” That was five, six years ago. It always stayed in the back of our minds.
How did you decide on this location?
Didi: The area has a piece of my heart because I’m a Creighton alum, and we thought we’d open up here – something different, besides the usual fast foods and the typical college fare.
As Omaha’s first creperie, how do you compare to traditional French-style creperies?
Derek: What we’ve witnessed over there is that it’s more of a crepe stand. We’re trying to blend casual fast service with that food stand concept. But we’re also dialing it up a big notch with the staff we have. Chef Chase and Sous Chef Jason [Titze] both have extensive knowledge from culinary school.
Describe the crepe-making process.
Chase: The closest thing is calling it a pancake, but it’s really not. I would compare it more to a wrap, kind of like the French version of a tortilla. The batter gets cooked onto a seasoned griddle, similar to cast iron. And then it gets a little crisp, a little browned, and then from there we add our ingredients and wrap it.
What is the most unique ingredient you’ve used in your crepes so far?
Chase: The quark cheese from Branched Oak Farm.
What’s your most important tool in the kitchen?
Chase: I really love the cast iron. We use it for several different items on the menu. It gives a nice, unique flavor, and does what most other tools can’t.
What inspired you as you developed the menu?
Derek: We met with Brian [O’Malley, restaurant consultant and ICA faculty], a friend of ours, and gave him what we thought we wanted to see, and then after that we worked with Chase on fine-tuning the items. We plan to adjust it seasonally.
Chase: Trying to keep to the growing season, just so it’s a little more appropriate.
Derek: We’re getting all of our proteins from local producers, like Branched Oak Farm, Hollenbeck Farms, Truebridge Foods, Plum Creek Farms.
Who are some of your culinary mentors?
Chase: Brian O’Malley. He has really given me a unique perspective to how I creatively develop. Øystein Solberg, the fine-dining chef at the institute. Clayton Chapman [of the Grey Plume].
How does the Corner Creperie fit into the Omaha restaurant scene?
Derek: It seems like a lot of places opening up have a more specific purpose. That was one of our ideas, too: to do one thing, and to do it very well. I think that’s one way the restaurant scene is trying to change a little bit in Omaha, and maybe even nationally. Keep it simple, that’s our philosophy.
Corner Creperie is located at 343 N. 24th Street at Chicago Street. Hours are Mon – Sat 10a.m – 10p.m. and Sun 8a.m. – 6p.m. Call 402.955.9577 for details.