Owner and Executive Chef David Allen, far right, with Chef Bevan Gertsch-Cochran and Laura Glebus at the newly expanded Latitude 44 Bistro on U.S. Avenue in Plattsburgh.
Plattsburgh area, and it’s due in equal parts to Chef David Allen’s cooking experience, and his youthful energy and ability to make people feel like they are at home in his restaurant.
Originally from Chazy, Allen graduated from Burlington High School, and went immediately into restaurant work. His first job was at a bowling alley, cooking and serving fried food. From there he moved on to the kitchen at Fletcher Allen hospital. Meanwhile, his desire to become a gourmet chef was growing, and he developed a passion for French cuisine.
“There was a girl that lived upstairs from me and she was a graduate of New England Culinary Institute (NECI), and I used to run and ask her questions and she saw that I had a passion for cooking, but I was on my own. I never thought culinary school was a possibility for me, it was too expensive,” said Allen.
One day she just said that he needed to get down to NECI and check it out. He visited the school, and the financial aid office, and somehow worked out going there. At NECI he earned an Associate’s degree in Culinary Arts, and was on his way.
“From there I got to travel, I went to The Breakers in West Palm Beach Florida which is five-star, five diamond restaurant,” he said. “They have 13 or 14 different restaurants and I got to travel and work in every one of them.”
Cooking was Allen’s passport to travel, and he traveled to several different restaurants, as well as back to the Champlain Valley, over the next several years. But his passion for French cuisine eventually lead him to the Internet, to find the best French restaurant in the country. He found Lutece in Las Vegas, and packed his bags and punched his ticket to Las Vegas. He worked at Lutece, an experience he called “amazing,” but he soon was on his way back to Plattsburgh.
He worked in several local restaurants, when the opportunity to open his own restaurant came up. He had never owned or managed a restaurant, and the decision to buy a restaurant took a huge leap of faith.
“So I was thinking about moving and getting into the cities where my style of cuisine was more common, and the opportunity for this place came up and everybody thought it was a bad location. So I did a lot of thinking about it, and Peter Whitbeck did what he could to help me get in here, and we did all the work. I painted everything, we built these tables, and it just took off.”
What took off was Latitude 44 Bistro, at 5131 U.S. Avenue in Plattsburgh. Other restaurants had been tried in that location and failed. At Latitude 44, there is now very often a line out the door, even on typically quiet dining nights.
Allen is quick to give much of the credit to his staff. The kitchen at Latitude 44 is staffed from chef to intern with culinary school veterans.
“When you get the opportunity to work with people like that in a professional setting, it just spreads through the restaurant. To just be able to work with this team in this area is amazing,” Allen said.
But where you really see a difference at Latitude 44, aside from the food, is in the atmosphere. Most of the customers are return customers, and if Allen knows you, he’s likely come over and say hello, chat about your day, and just make you feel at home. And that home is growing. They have already had to renovate in order to add more seating, and a meeting room in the back. More is on the way.
Allen is opening a café in February across the parking lot for breakfast sandwiches, lunch sandwiches and coffees. It will be called Café 73. To anyone with a good GPS, the two names will make sense. Beyond that Allen just plans to continue to make good food, enjoy the fruits of his labor, and continue to grow as part of the fabric of Plattsburgh.
“The people that I’ve met, becoming part of Plattsburgh’s community, I really enjoy that. I love socializing with the customers, I love when they enjoy things. I love creating the new family that I have here. We’re constantly trying to push the palette of Plattsburgh and seeing how far we can take it; learning, and just continuing to enjoy what we do.”
INGREDIENTS:• 1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
• 6 Ounces Pancetta Medium Dice
• 1 Tablespoon Garlic Minced
• 4 Ounces White Wine
• 10 Ounces Heavy Cream
• 2 Ounces Parmesan Cheese Grated
• Salt and White Pepper To Taste
• 6 Ounces Cooked Penne Pasta
• 4 Ounces Smoked Gouda Grated
TO PREPARE:In Sauce pot add Vegetable oil and Pancetta Render Pancetta. Add Shallots and Garlic, Sweat until translucent. Deglaze with White Wine and Reduce by one-half. Add Heavy Cream and Parmesan Cheese Reduce until thick.
Fold Penne Pasta in Sauce, Salt and White Pepper to Taste.
Place in serving bowl, top with Smoked Gouda and enjoy.