10 minutes in the kitchen: A crepe is born

Image 1. Spread it thin: A crepe rake skims the top of the batter, giving the crepe its signature crispiness.
Image 2. Melting down: Everything from avocado to sun-dried tomato pesto converge in the middle of this crepe in progress.
Image 3. Ready for the table: Twisted Crepe owner Dustin Pulliam delivers two crepes to hungry customers. Photos by Max Cooper.

Steam curls above a 220 degree griddle. A wooden rake, about the size of a human hand, pushes the batter into a perfect circle, spreading it thin against the black cooktop. Twisted Crepe's signature dish, The Faithful, is nearly finished. Within minutes, avocado, sprouts, mushrooms, peppers, mozzarella and sun-dried tomato pesto meld with the batter. As the crepe takes on an American flavor, owner Dustin Pulliam lets us divulge the secret of this French delicacy.

What is a batter rake and what does it do?
As far as the tools we use to make crepes, it all starts on a crepe griddle; those are made in France. And then we have a crepe rake that we spin the crepes out with, and then we have a crepe spatula that we use to flip the crepes. With the combination of the griddle and the rake you can get the batter really thin and it cooks very, very fast.

There are many kinds of crepes, from savory buckwheat to sweet wheat flower. What do you specialize in?
We just have one crepe batter that we use for all our crepes, from the breakfast savory to the sweet crepes. We've perfected that batter and we feel like it's the best combination for all the crepes that we make and the style of crepes that we do here.

Your fillings range from traditional Nutella to falafel and buffalo chicken. Why did you decide to go beyond the typical French options?
We wanted to be a more modern, Americanized creperie. So we decided to have less traditional ingredients as far as the savories go and kind of put a new twist on crepes.

Making crepes is delicate business. How do you keep them light and fluffy?
We've perfected the craft after making hundreds and then thousands of crepes. It takes anywhere from a week to a month to get the process down and actually make a perfect crepe.

It seems more complicated than an average sandwich or dessert. Do you offer any tips to your employees about how to do it right?
A lot of the spinning process that goes into the crepe is just muscle memory and practice. When a new employee starts they work on spinning crepes at least an hour or two, day after day until they get the hang of it.

Do you think this is something that the average cook should try at home?
Oh, yeah. It's going to be really hard to do it exactly as we do, because we have a 16-inch crepe griddle, but lots of our customers make their own crepes at home and share their ideas with us. They just use pans specific to making crepes on a normal stove.

You're currently a real-estate broker by trade, yes?
Just recently I got into real estate with Beverly Hanks, but I started this and built this up. I put in 110 hours a week for the first year and a half. I've always wanted to do real estate and finally got the restaurant and the staff to a position where I could be flexible and do both.

So why crepes as opposed to something else?
I actually got the idea out of Tallahassee, Fla. One of my best friends, Joey Davis, went into a creperie down there and thought it was a great idea. I called the owner and paid him a consulting fee and went down and worked at his restaurant for three days while I learned crepes. I thought it would be something different and unique and fit the market here in Asheville.

If you're going to recommend a crepe to someone who's never had one before, is there one in particular that you would suggest?
One of my favorites that I came up with is the smoked trout. It's similar to lox, but we use local Sunburst Trout Farms trout along with spinach, cream cheese and a balsamic reduction. It's very light and just a great combination of ingredients.

If you were stranded on a desert island and could only pick one crepe, what would you choose?
I'd pick the Joby's Luau. I'm a fan of pineapple, and the pineapple with all the other ingredients makes for a great choice.

Jen Nathan Orris can be reached at jorris@mountainx.com.

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