A 52-year-old chef with 38 years of kitchen experience?
Alex Cormier, who grew up in Bridesburg, was 14 when he went to work after school for chef Jean-Francois Taquet at La Truffe and the Four Seasons, and in his early 20s joined Bruce Lim at Ciboulette. He cooked for a spell in Hawaii and then became private chef for a Saudi prince before opening his own place, Alex on South (now La Fourno at 636 South St.). His journey twisted up through Lambertville, N.J., and then to New York City, and then back to Lambertville in 2003 at Rick's, a long-running Italian restaurant. He bought Rick's in 2004 from founder Rick Buscavage, and closed it in 2016.
But we have not seen the last of Cormier. With a longtime front-of-the-house associate, Donna Painter, whom he met at Ciboulette and with whom he owned Alex's on South, Cormier is back in the game at Broadmoor, a BYOB on North Union Street in Lambertville.
With the afternoon sun streaming through the large windows, we chatted last week.
Rick's seemed to be doing well. Why did you close?
My 15-year lease was coming up. My landlord died, and my rents went up.
I wasn't planning to do anything, for a little bit. I went to go work in Martine's [in New Hope] for a year, and I was interviewing the whole time for different positions, mostly private chef jobs, helping my friends in New York in the fashion business, and then Donna came to me. She says, "We have an investor to do something." That's [former] Sen. [Robert] Toricelli. He was a good customer, and at first I wasn't sure if I wanted to do it. I wanted to just sit back, maybe for another year, and figure things out. And then I just kind of looked into it again. He was a good investor. He put a lot of money in here. … To be honest with you, he's very generous. And here we are.
Tell me about the building.
This was Broadmoor Antiques for 20 years, and then before that, it was Broadmoor Restaurant from the mid-'60s into the mid-'80s. The building is from 1910, and sometime around the '20s, it was Joe's Meat Market into the '60s.
Tell me about the food here.
There's a carryover from Rick's, which is the Italian end. But we're always known for our specials, so it's pretty much 50-50. It was the Italian end to balance out the food cost and to grab the people that just want some good old Italian food. Good pastas, good meatballs, things like that, which I got so used to making. But my end, my French end, I'd always have different specials. Sometimes we had foie gras, we had venison, we had swordfish. I made a Russian dish called coulibiac in puff pastry. My mother's Russian, my father's French. I have a really big background in all that. At Rick's, I got tied into doing more of the Italian stuff. Our next menu is a mix between that comfort Italian food, where you want great pastas and everything homemade, and then you never know what you can get. The Americans, the French, Russian … it's an interesting mix that I just developed through the years in the things that I liked.
What's your clientele like?
Our clientele is really loyal locally, because they've been with me for a long time. But then we push out from everywhere, from Princeton to central Jersey and the Philadelphia burbs. This spot is a little different because even though it's 2½ blocks away, in the central business district, I was in the residential area with a grandfather [zoning variance].
What atmosphere are you trying to set?
I think it's upscale. It's showing off what I always wanted to be — that I'm more than just Italian. Now I finally have a place that shows this. You know what I mean? I have a nice interior, we have great music. We have an open kitchen, which I love, with a glass enclosure. And people walk by and say, "Wow, you went fancy on us." But the last three nights, they come in. I do have one rule here. I welcome everybody. I keep this place really friendly. People are happy here. And our staff just makes you feel at home. You can just be wherever you want, do whatever you want here. No stuffiness. You can have a range of getting meatballs to foie gras, if you like.
Broadmoor, 8 N. Union St., Lambertville, N.J., 609-397-1400.