Roots Bistro Gourmand was opened in August 2012 by partners James Orlandi and Philippe Corbet. The duo’s concept revolutionizes French cuisine and gastronomic techniques in a modest bistro setting.
Philippe Corbet is a French-trained chef with over eight years of experience in Michelin-star rated restaurants. Born in Chambery, France, he attended the Edmond Rostang School in Savoie, France and earned a Diplôme National Du Brevet (BEPC). Upon graduation he continued his studies at Centre de Formation d’Apprentis in Savoie, France where he was honored as class valedictorian. To complete his education he served a two-year apprenticeship in 1994 at Auberge Lamartine in Savoie, France under Owner and Executive Chef Marin. In the years that followed his training in France continued at Georges Blanc in Vonnas Ain, La Bateau Ivre in Savoie, and Auberge Lamartine in Savoie.
In 2001, Corbet moved to Long Island to take a position as sous chef at Stone Creek Inn in East Quogue, NY. After several years at the restaurant and a guest chef position at Oscar’s of Saint James in Saint James, NY he moved to Manhattan in 2006 to take the helm at Bouley. As executive chef for the two-star Michelin rated restaurant, he created and developed daily gastronomic menus. Corbet returned to Saint James, NY to create O’s Food and Wine Bar (formerly Oscar’s of Saint James) a new take on a small plate and tapas concept.
James Orlandi did not discover his passion for food until much later in life when he and his fiancé traveled to Europe. Upon arrival, they found a culture that had true respect for food. It was here that he learned fresh quality ingredients mixed with gastronomic techniques and in-house preparations brought out the true flavors of the ingredients. This knowledge of flavor combinations and attentive presentation became his focus. It was at this moment that he realized his true calling. After returning stateside, he enrolled in the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, NY and graduated with honors in 2010.
After graduation, Orlandi went on to continue his training at the flagship restaurant Jean Georges at The Trump International Hotel in Manhattan. He met his current partner Philippe Corbet when he took a position as sous chef at O’s Food and Wine Bar. It is his goal to combine his experiences abroad with those in the United States to bring an exclusive perspective to his cuisine. The pair will open their first restaurant Roots Bistro Gourmand in West Islip, NY in August 2012.
How did you two meet?
We meet at O’s Food and wine bar in ST. James. Philippe had been executive chef and partner and had hired James as a sous chef a year before its closing. James had been a long time customer at O’s and was very familiar with Philippe’s style of cooking. They both found that they had a similar view in which a restaurant should operate.
What inspired both of you to become chefs and eventually restaurateurs?
For the both of us I feel it comes down to the love of food and having the ability to be creative on a daily basis. Owning our own place lets us think outside the normal presentations and bring new ideas that in turn create some really interesting and tasty dishes.
Why Long Island and not NYC for Roots?
Long Island is the source of many great products, which we try our best to bring forward in our restaurant. We have the ability now to deal with some great farmers, butchers, brewers, and local vendors that provide us the freshest products possible. This also brings a local flair to our food because these ingredients represent our community. We both love NYC and a lot of our influence comes from the city as well as France. We choose long island because we like the community and the availability to deal directly with local farms, which are only a short drive from the restaurant. We also feel that Long Islanders don’t need to make the drive to NYC to experience great food.
The Roots works with local farms, wineries, butchers and food vendors, which is the first step to sustainability. How do you focus on using available ingredients more efficiently rather than eliminating ingredients?
The first step to sustainability is using readily available ingredients based on the season that we are in. The idea of efficiently sourcing these ingredients plays back on the local businesses that we use to provide us these products. Farmers have no choice but to move with the season, so it just makes sense that our menu would be defined by what is freshly available at that time.
How does Roots revolutionize French cuisine with gastronomic techniques in a modest bistro setting?
The idea of Roots is to strip away with old world dress code, white table cloths, elaborate floral displays, and tuxedoed servers and replacing them with dynamic gastronomy and a lively relaxed atmosphere.
In your opinion, is it important to have a signature cocktail, entrée, appetizer, or dessert on your menu?
No, We feel that moving with the season is the most important. Our challenge each season is to create an interesting menu that is exclusive to that particular year and that season, because no year will be the same, and there are always new ingredients available that will bring on new creations. This is why we also offer chef tastings because once our guests become comfortable with our seasonally changing menu we are sure they will become interested in venturing into a meal designed specifically for them.
Talk to us about the interior dining space. Work with any local designers and consultants, if so, who? What’s the ambience like? Any challenges in developing the BOH?
Yes for our interior space we worked with local developer Ken Rogers, from Rogers Development in Babylon and Stacy from House to Home also located in Babylon. We felt it’s important to bring our local consultants in to help because these are the people who have vested interest in this community. The idea was to strip away all the flair and come back to what a restaurant should be… A place that serves great food and makes people feel comfortable and relaxed. Our design is vintage bistro-barn influence with a modern touch. The BOH was designed by Joeseph Canzoneri, from Canzoneri Development Group in Franklin Square another Long Island local. We are a sponsored kitchen with Electrolux kitchen equipment. With the help of the two we have been able to create a very modern kitchen with highly efficient equipment.
Your wait staff is always an important factor. Your food could be the best around, but if you have a wait staff that just doesn’t get it, your customers won’t come back. How do you go about choosing the right staff?
We are always looking for passionate food people. Experience is a great asset to have but here at Roots our most important factor for our staff is to have passion and respect for what we produce. We provide our staff with training on all our menu items as well as tastings for our dishes, wine, cocktails, and beer. It is important that our staff knows the flavor profiles because that is the only way to truly connect with what we serve here. By expanding passion for food and respect for the ingredients we can better serve our customers and make sure they are interested, educated and above all satisfied with their visit to Roots.
Working with any sommeliers? What role does wine play in your operation and has that evolved over the years in both of your experiences?
Wine is a very important part of our restaurant. Traditionally Bistros are known for their great selection of tasty aaffordable wine. This is what we bring to our wine list. We offer over 60 wines by the bottle and half of them by the glass. We try our best to introduce new appellations and vintages so that our guests can expand their palates.
What was the most challenging parts of opening Roots?
The restoration of the 100-year-old building was the most challenging. The full restore took about 7 months. Many challenges came up over the building process, but by the end we are very happy with the choices we made. Many of our guests have complimented the remodeling; we even have a live wall!
What advice would you give the next generation of chefs who want to become restaurateurs as well?
Have respect and passion for what you put on the plate. Always leave a clean station, and remember a restaurant doesn’t just serve food. It provides a gathering place for your community and it should be interactive, educational, and always fun.