NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ--- Bruce Lefebvre can now add restaurateur next to his name. A loan he received from the U.S. Small Business Administration in April allowed him to purchase and become the new owner of The Frog and The Peach Restaurant in New Brunswick.
No stranger to the kitchen, Lefebvre has spent the last 11 years as the Executive Chef at the renowned eatery. The opportunity to own the restaurant came about when he was approached by the original owners, the husband and wife team of Betsy Alger and Jim Black, who started the restaurant back in 1983.
For Lefebvre owning a restaurant has been a lifelong dream. His interest in cooking began at age 10, when he and his sisters started making breakfast from recipes they found in their mom’s New York Times Cookbook on Saturday mornings when their parents were fast asleep.
However it wasn’t until he graduated from Wake Forest University with a bachelor’s degree in English that Lefebvre found his true calling. While on a summertrip across the country he decided that he wanted to be a chef. So he enrolled in The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.
Ironically, his first job after graduating from the CIA was at The Frog and The Peach as a line cook. After spending two years at the restaurant, Lefebvre realized that he needed to learn more in order to further develop his skills and career. So he left for New York City, where he worked for Charlie Palmer at Aureole; doing stagieres at Daniel, Lespinasse and other NYC establishments.
In 2000, with more experience under his belt, Lefebvre returned to The Frog and The Peach as a Sous Chef. In 2001, he was named the restaurant’s Executive Chef. So with the opportunity to purchase the restaurant this year, Lefebvre took the necessary steps to turn his dream to reality.
First, Lefebvre had the business valuated by his accountant Roy Kvalo of the Curchin Group. Satisfied with the asking price and confident that he could makethe jump to entrepreneur, he then approached his lender at Two River Community Bank, an SBA Preferred Lender. Paul Orzechowski, the bank’s Vice President for SBA lending walked Lefebvre through the application process. As a result, Lefebvre was able to secure an SBA-backed loan in excess of $750,000 from Two River Community Bank in order to purchase the restaurant.
“Restaurants continue to remain the number one industry that the SBA lends to in New Jersey,” said SBA New Jersey District Director Al Titone. “This loan program is meant for entrepreneurs, like Chef Bruce Lefebvre, who have the experience and the opportunity to take over a restaurant with a following and successful track record; it is a perfect fit.”
According to Titone, the SBA New Jersey district office has approved 89 loans to restaurants for a total of $72.1 million, during the agency's fiscal year 2012 (Ocober 1, 2011 thru September 30, 2012).
“For me, the key to making this a seamless transition was the ability to keep the existing management team in place,” said Lefebvre. He credits and thanks Jim Mullen, general manager and wine director, Jack Tagmouti, banquet and events manager and Marion Palumbo the restaurant’s bookkeeper for keeping everything on track.
Today, the 130 seat restaurant with its 45 employees is still thriving and bustling in a 200 year old industrial building that once housed printing pressesfor The Home News and most recently a manufacturer of leather suitcase handles. Lefebvre is still creating delicious fare like Day Boat Sea Scallops with mango, hot pepper, duck confit, cashews, lemongrass and coconut broth or Pan Roasted Griggstown Chicken Breast with dirty rice, Blue Moon Acres radishes and avocado salad and a mole sauce.
Lefebvre is well known for his modern take on American Cuisine and for staying true to the authenticity of The Garden State’s amazing agriculture and fisheries. He describes his personal cooking style as one with not only a respect for his classical training but also an eagerness to explore and share influences and ingredients from cuisines and cultures across the United States and the world.
“Whenever possible I try to use local ingredients,” said Lefebvre. “We use local purveyors like Blue Moon Acres Farm in Pennington and Griggstown Quail and Farm Market in Somerset County for our poultry. People are savvy of where their food comes from. Certainly, they aren’t looking to overpay for something that is not authentic and great.”
The restaurant is open seven days a week. Monday thru Friday lunch and dinner are served. On the weekends, the restaurant is only open for dinner. “We work hard to cook delicious and creative food, and serve it alongside smart wines and well-crafted cocktails in an energetic and convivial atmosphere,” said Lefebvre. “We change the menu within seasons and let our loyal and diverse clientele round out the vibe.”
“While we are considered an upscale restaurant, we try to appeal to our varied customers,” said Lefebvre. “We have a $19 price fixed lunch menu that attracts corporate clients. We also have a pre-theatre fixed price menu from 5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. for $42.”
According to Lefebvre, The Frog and The Peach also offers Tapas in the Garden with Spanish Wine and Sherry every Friday starting at 5:30 p.m. in the summer.
“Our Tapas events are a way for our diners to get two of three bites of food, but also allows them to try eight or more offerings at a time,” said Lefebvre. “We also offer our annual 5 Course Peach Tasting for $59. I like to think there is a little something for everyone.”
While the rigors of running a restaurant seven days a week can be challenging, Lefebvre says he doesn’t take his work home with him. Living in New Brunswick also allows him to occasionally leave the restaurant in between servings to spend some time with his wife and children.
“I think the biggest change for me since taking over the restaurant is that I am checking daily and weekly financial reports,” said Lefebvre. “I come out of the kitchen and interact with the customers more, but other than that nothing has changed all that much for me. I am still passionate about cooking and providing a hospitable dining experience.”
“I am truly fortunate that I have the ability do something that I love,” said Lefebvre. “Certainly being an entrepreneur can be a wild ride. Owning a restaurant is more like a rollercoaster.”
Lefebvre is still able to create in the kitchen and serve his signature dishes. Only this time as an entrepreneur he finds that success is now on the menu.