The Wood Burning Oven: June 2022

“The Wood Burning Oven” Heats Up Hurleyville
La Tarte Flambee for Everyone
by Lily Barrish

HURLEYVILLE, June 2022 — Outside of the Collaborative College High School on the first sunny 76-degree day of the season, childhood friends, Mathias Peter and Damien Frey assembled their pop-up restaurant, The Wood Burning Oven.

This is no ordinary setup—the oven weighs a mammoth 600 pounds, and takes an hour to heat up to 800 degrees. It was built by an ironsmith back in Strasbourg, Alsace, a region in the northeast of France, where both men grew up. Mr. Peter purchased it, and an opportunity to transport it to the states became available when the Strasbourg Tourist Office organized an Alsace Christmas market in New York City.

After high school, the two future restauranteurs moved to New York City, starting out as busboys under the same chain, but at different locations. Remarkably, they each eventually achieved their goal of owning and running their own restaurants. In 2012, Mr. Peter unveiled Manhattan’s La Tarte Flambée until it closed in 2019. Mr. Frey opened Brooklyn’s La Cigogne in 2014. He proudly reported that La Cigogne made it through the pandemic, and was very successful during it, too. However, in 2020, he made the decision to shutter the windows and walk away.

It was also in 2020 that Mr. Peter and his wife bought a house in Narrowsburg. He called Mr. Frey and told him what a cool place he’d found upstate and soon enough Mr. Frey purchased his own house in the area. Dedicated to the restaurant business, relocating to the country provided a new venture for the two to introduce a classic Alsace meal to the masses—La Tarte Flambée, the same name as Mr. Peter’s previous restaurant.

The paper-thin flatbread crust is completely vegan; no eggs or milk are used. It’s topped with crème fraiche, lardons and onions before being placed on top of the flames inside the oven for a mere 10-15 seconds. Then it’s turned around for another 10-15 seconds and voila, a meal in 30 seconds.

Other offerings include Alsatian mac and cheese made with homemade spätzle which are hand-cut egg noodles that Mr. Frey fondly remembers his family teaching him to cook when he was a child.

Currently, The Wood Burning Oven is an events-only food truck, with festivals lined up in Brooklyn, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Narrowsburg, and the Homestead School location in Glen Spey.

Mr. Peter said COVID made it difficult to get off the ground running, and this is the first year people are contacting them. He says they are looking forward to everything they have lined up. The Hurleyville event came to fruition because Mr. Peter’s son is enrolled at the Homestead School.
“We see it as a wonderful opportunity to bring the community together; it’s been so long,” said Jack Comstack, Director of the Collaborative College High School.

All 39 students at CCHS got to sample the fare, and Mr. Comstock extended invitations to their parents, as well as the staff at The Center for Discovery. For them, and some passersby, too, it was a unique opportunity to try some new and unusual food.