3 Questions with Cristian Duarte of The Bayou

Ahead of our last membership event of 2015 (December 8, 5:30-7:30pm), we caught up with Cristian Duarte, owner of The Bayou, to learn about why he chose to open his restaurant in Bethlehem and why he supports the Co-Op.

The Bayou1. The Bayou has really made a name for itself since it opened a few years ago. When deciding to open a restaurant in Bethlehem, what made you decide on a southern-inspired cuisine theme?

My love for the city of Bethlehem and a fear of failure inspired me. I’ve seen various businesses flourish and then finally fail during my many years working in this industry. That, along with having acquired the building formerly known as Hawthorne House, I felt that as a young entrepreneur I needed to find and bring a certain niche to Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley. 

I was blessed to have a very good working relationship with two of the most talented and knowledgeable local individuals in the industry - Mo Taylor and Jeremy Straub. In our search to find that niche came Tyler Baxter. At the time he was the executive chef at Tapas on Main who had worked and trained at a southern kitchen. We were able to combine our visions to create the restaurant you see today.

2. To keep the momentum going, you recently opened a new restaurant in downtown Allentown called Grain. What was it about the city’s recent revitalization efforts that made you want to be a part of it?       

I understand that the success of Bethlehem and its businesses is in some part dependent on the success of the Lehigh Valley.  With the success of The Bayou and its momentum being what it is we felt that we had something to add to the Center City revitalization. Allentown has been growing constantly, and there has been a draw for big franchises to move their businesses into that area. However, local businesses are essential to the local economy. Where the bigger franchises are more inclined to use cheaper products from other big companies, we at Grain use as many local products as we can.

3. What appeals to you most about having a co-op—a community owned grocery store—in the Lehigh Valley?

It’s all about local supporting local and how that helps the area’s economy. I understand first hand the utility of having a grocery store in the heart of the city that patrons can walk to. I live a few short blocks to the city’s downtown area and have gone several years without a vehicle. A strategically positioned grocery store would be a game changer for Bethlehem and to have it community owned would be crucial to it flourishing by ensuring that the people feel invested in and utilize it to its full potential. 

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