Charlotte Harden was only 7 years old when her family left their home in Belgium and moved to America to pursue their dreams of a better life. "The way we lived in Europe, you worked hard and did not get much for it," Harden said. "In America, it is such a land of opportunity." So the family sold everything they owned and started a new life in this country.
After a short period of living in Cleveland, Texas and Colorado, Stan and Gigi Wielezynski and their four children settled in Columbus where they opened the first La Chatelaine Bakery & Bistro in Upper Arlington in 1991. The following year they opened a second restaurant in downtown Worthington. Nearly three decades later, they now own and operate three restaurants, including the newest location in Dublin. It is the classic American success story built on hard work and an inherent drive to succeed.
From the beginning, the entire family had a long-time love affair with food. Stan was a food engineer, and Gigi was a cook. Their oldest son, Tad, attended culinary school in Europe, and Charlotte graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 2005. She was nearly tempted to stay in New York City when offered a job with the Culinary Institute, but instead returned to Columbus, her family and the business she had grown to love.
Today, Charlotte runs the Worthington restaurant. "The Worthington community with its farmers market, history and events is similar to the European-type community that we love" she said. The restaurant features a lineup of made-from-scratch foods, from bread and pastries to soups and quiches. The format changes from cafeteria-style for breakfast and lunch to full table service during happy hour and dinner.
Charlotte emphasizes her family's close connection with the communities where their restaurants are located and the unprecedented loyalty they get from their employees. "We would not be who we are without the people we have as employees,"
Charlotte said, adding that 90 percent of their employees have worked with them for more than five years.
With spring weather just around the corner, activity on the La Chatelaine patio in downtown Worthington is about to begin. "We decided that maybe if we put the chairs out, it would help the sun gods to come out," Charlotte laughed. Warm weather or not, here are a few upcoming events at La Chatelaine French Bakery & Bistro.
- March 31: Easter Specials until 3 p.m.
- April 11: Belgian Beer Tasting featuring five LaChouffe beers and matching foods, along with souvenirs and a live talk from a brewery representative; $40/person
- Saturday Cooking Classes (ongoing)
- Wine Tastings (ongoing)
For more information, visit www.lachatelainebakery.com, or follow La Chatelaine on Facebook and Twitter for the latest special event updates.