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Sour crepes? Taste of Belgium parts ways with Hyde Park Farmers Market

Posted at 5:37 PM, May 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-17 19:24:05-04

CINCINNATI -- A decision to not serve crepes has soured a decade-long relationship between Taste of Belgium and the Hyde Park Farmers Market, according to restaurant owner Jean-Francois Flechet.

For the first time since 2006, market organizers did not invite Taste of Belgium to sell waffles at the market, which will begin its season at 9:30 a.m. Sunday at Hyde Park Square on Erie Avenue. The market will host about 20 vendors from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. every Sunday through Oct. 29.

Flechet first started selling Taste of Belgium's waffles at the farmers market 10 years ago and began also selling crepes there about eight years ago.

"I worked the booth by myself at the time," Flechet said. "Everyone would be long packed and gone, and an hour later I would finally leave."

He said he decided to stop selling crepes last year because his employees did not have enough time to pack up the equipment used to cook the pastries within the half-hour after the market closed. Cincinnati Police reopen Erie Avenue around the square at 2 p.m. each Sunday.

"Our lines are long right up to 1:30," Flechet said. "It's not like we operate out of a food truck. There was no way for us to break down all the equipment and be out in 30 minutes. It was just dangerous for my staff, so we decided we'll go back to just doing waffles.

"This year (market organizers) told us if we don't do the crepes we can't come back," Flechet said. "We told them it is not fair for them to tell us what we can serve."

Market manager Gabrielle Ragusa responded with the following statement via email:

"By definition, farmers markets are a creative way to bring in sales for local food artisans and farmers who may not have the financial scale or regional resources to sell their goods otherwise. Many of our vendors depend on markets for a sizable chunk of their income and don't have brick-and-mortar locations elsewhere. Truly a grass-roots operation, farmers markets are intended to provide alternative distribution to local producers and healthy, homegrown or handmade foods to our communities. We've kept true to this distinction this season, but of course rejoice in Taste of Belgium's success throughout Ohio as they continue to grow!"

Flechet now operates four Taste of Belgium restaurant locations in Cincinnati. The Hyde Park Farmers Market was the last summer market where Taste of Belgium regularly set up shop, he said.

"We used to do them all (farmers markets)," Flechet said. "My management has been trying to convince me for years to stop setting up at the (Hyde Park) market. I said we will always do the Hyde Park market because we are part of the community."

Flechet said he worries people will think he was the one to end Taste of Belgium's participation at the market.

"Now everyone will think we are the ones who pulled out," he said. "To me, that is where I started. We would never stop the farmers market."