When asked whether his bakery and café, Atelier on Trade, could be successful among several competitors in the downtown Winston-Salem area, owner Pablo del Valle said, “That’s like saying, ‘Can downtown afford another burger joint?’ And there are 36. There is plenty of room for everybody.”
Plus, Pablo brings something different to the table.
In 2012, Pablo received “Le Grand Diplôme,” a comprehensive degree that combines instruction in both cuisine and pastry disciplines, from Le Cordon Bleu, a culinary arts school in Paris. He said his education in Paris helps him stand apart from other bakeries in the area.
“I bring something different. I combine classical European tastes, as well as my own creative twist, to produce unique flavor combinations,” he said.
Pablo began leasing the space that is now Atelier on Trade Street in July 2014 and opened for business early last month. Before that, Pablo worked out of his kitchen in his home in Clemmons, N.C.
Pablo’s presence downtown did not, however, just begin this July. In 1995 at age 18, Pablo bought the brick building that now houses Atelier.
In October 1995, he opened Pablo’s, an all-ages entertainment venue that hosted various local bands, small filmmakers and avant garde circus acts such as flame throwers and sword swallowers. In February 1996, he opened The Missing Link, a coffee shop that served food and drinks to club goers.
“Trade Street was a place to explore alternative entertainment. I lived close, had a lot of friends in bands, and it worked out that the spaces were really cheap,” he said.
Although he owned the building until 2002, Pablo did not stick around in Winston-Salem. He jumped from Winston-Salem State University to community college in San Diego to Yale University to Duke University and, finally, to North Carolina State University. He studied medicine, biology and theater production before graduating from NC State with a degree in landscape architecture.
“I’ve always been interested in the next thing, the thing I have not done,” he said. “I enjoy the novelty of a challenge.”
Pablo sold the building on Trade Street in 2002 and graduated from NC State in 2008. After living in Baltimore for three years working in the landscape architecture industry, he left for Paris in August 2011 to study at Le Cordon Bleu.
And now he is back in North Carolina.
When he moved back to Clemmons and started baking for local restaurants like The Porch Kitchen and Cantina, people quickly recognized Pablo, the guy that bought the club when he was 18.
“Returning [to Trade Street] was crazy,” he said. “Everyone said, ‘Pablo, where have you been? Welcome home.'”
People in Winston-Salem, new and old, said they appreciate what Pablo has to offer.
Clay McGuire, kitchen manager at The Porch, a ten month old restaurant on Manly Street, said their customers love Pablo’s dishes, especially his trés leches cake.
“We love Pablo. He’s a great guy,” McGuire said. “His desserts are top notch and we get really good feedback.”
John Gates, former editor of the editorial page at the Winston-Salem Journal has lived in Winston-Salem since 1977, and downtown since 2004. He knows Pablo brought something to downtown that it lacked before.
“I think he’s an artist,” Gates said. “I think everything I have eaten is outstanding. He’s the best baker in town.”
Employee at Atelier and senior at Wake Forest, Jordan Pineda, appreciates Pablo’s openness to new ideas.
“It’s awesome to have your boss listen to your opinion,” Pineda said. “He understands that I am studying entrepreneurship, so we talk a lot about the business.”
Pablo has traveled the world, but could not be happier being back in Winston-Salem, he said.
“When I was looking to start a family, Winston was hard to beat. It’s almost impossible to think you could find such a great place,” he said. “It’s been a rediscovery returning home, and a wonderful one at that,” he said.