Nina Paturel and Luc Moeys, an entrepreneurial couple who own Oriole9 and Yum Yum Noodle Bar in Woodstock and another Yum Yum Noodle Bar in Uptown Kingston, recently bought what used to be Jack & Luna’s in Stone Ridge. They renamed it Lekker, which is Dutch for “delicious,” and it’s a nice bright spot for slow-pulled coffee, juices and delectable edibles.
Paturel was born and raised in Woodstock, and she says that she always wanted to escape. So she moved to Amsterdam, where she met Luc. He’d studied business in school, but trained as a chef so that he could travel. “I wanted to see a lot of things, and as a chef you can,” says Moeys. Their plan was to live somewhere else, maybe an island in the Caribbean; but they ended up living in the Hudson Valley. Moeys’ first job in the area was at the DePuy Canal House in High Falls.
Small-business owners are often tethered to their stores. Paturel and Moeys are aiming for a different work paradigm. “Nina and I just like to build things,” Moeys says. “With that comes a lot of work, but also a lot of freedom. It’s all about empowerment. All those people who complain that they’re tied down – that’s a control issue. We only interfere if something really doesn’t fly with what our beliefs are.”
Oriole9 runs exactly the way that the couple wants it to. “The staff decides what they do within the guidelines,” says Moeys. “We don’t have the best solutions. The more eyes, the better… Also, it creates a culture where somebody who’s dishonest doesn’t fit in.”
Paturel says that once the staff is empowered to be truly responsible and do its best for the customer, then she and Moeys have essentially given their job to everyone else. “Then we stand there and say, ‘We don’t have a job. Let’s go start another…’ It’s the trust thing; that’s what gives us the freedom. Before we opened in Stone Ridge, we were in Africa for six weeks.”
The four restaurants are separate businesses, each run by its own manager. Technology allows the couple to be in touch with each location and, when necessary, step in to handle matters. “All our restaurants are up-to-date with everything that exists, such as the point-of-sales system,” Moeys says, gesturing towards the counter. “It’s fully wireless. We can take your credit card without taking it away from you. This existed in Holland ten years ago.”
“All this – the trusted staff and the technology – is what allows us to go away for six weeks. We love technology. We literally worked from Zimbabwe,” Paturel says.
“Yeah, we’re in a Jeep watching lions, and we’re on the phone making sure the milk arrives,” Moeys says. “It was actually payroll,” adds Paturel.
“I’m the foreigner here. I cannot tell you how many opportunities there are here. It is unbelievable,” Moeys says. “We’re big believers in ‘The more, the merrier.’ I think branding is American, and it works. We’d love Yum Yum to be a national model, or even a tri-state model. But we’re not in a rush, and we have a lot of ideas. It’s such a small community that people know us now. We’re trying to create something special. We would love good people to join us. It’s hard to find people – in the kitchen, on the management level, on the think-tank level. That is the one thing in the US: If you’re good at what you do, you want to do it yourself. In Europe it’s the opposite: If you’re good, you can be hired by a company.”
“Luc fits very well here,” Paturel says. “He’s always wanted to have his own thing. When Luc has an idea, he just makes it happen.”
Paturel and Moeys keep their food simple. All the garlic, for instance, gets hand-peeled and chopped in their restaurants, “to bring integrity to the job. If you haven’t touched it and mangled it and worked it, it’s different,” Moeys says. “If you buy products like already-segmented oranges and pre-marinated chicken…that’s a problem.”
Paturel and Moeys say they are sensitive to the communities in which they do business. They look at what’s already in town and try not to move next door to the same kind of restaurant. He says, “There are already three Asian restaurants in Stone Ridge, and I’m a big proponent of not stepping on people’s toes. We say, ‘The more, the merrier,’ but you need to breed diversity. Realize whom you want to serve. Some people like Oriole9 for breakfast. Some people like Deising’s, and that’s fine. You have to own what you create, stand behind your product. Simplicity is the key.”
Under the management of Brianna Pintens, Lekker serves breakfast, brunch and lunch all day long, using many products from local farms. Lekker also offers full-service catering.
Lekker, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily, 3928 Main Street, Stone Ridge; (845) 687-9794, www.lekker209.com.