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French flair in kitchen and garden

By ELIZABETH BETTENDORF, Times Correspondent
Published December 7, 2007


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Glenn David Cryer builds mosaic garden planters, makes mouth-watering crepes and knows how to bring a little bit of French sophistication to an otherwise ordinary back yard.

His 1947 cottage along Tampa's Azeele Avenue sports sky-blue doors leading to a garden with a brick terrace and a dining table covered in a blue and yellow country tablecloth. All around are lots of the accessories he makes and sells at area farmers' markets: mosaic-tiled concrete wall planters some outfitted with teapots and china cups, marble-pebbled stepping stones and fountains. He also creates earthy herb pots, birdbaths and custom designs like backsplashes for outdoor kitchens.

He has even covered the side of his house in his concrete artistry: a design that includes pillars and intricate detail work.

"You see what I was trying to do with my terrace - create a great French garden," he says.

Cryer, 45, was raised in the French fishing village Le Verdon Sur Mer and moved to the United States 15 years ago. He is a trained chef with a knack for gardening. Cactus, passion fruit vines, hot-pink bougainvillea and fruit trees flourish in the back yard where his three dogs romp among his outdoor studio and kayaks. He says he learned to make his unique garden creations from a cousin who trained in France to work on the great cathedrals.

He sells his garden accessories at farmers' markets - he's at the St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market about twice a month - and online at his Web site http://thegardenwall.info/index.htm.

His artistic skills also extend to the kitchen, where he is revered for his baking talents.

He started making his now-famous crepes as a teenager when he took odd jobs cooking at French ski and beach resorts. His dream is to someday open a crepe restaurant and adjoining garden store, though he says he's learning the ropes the hard way first. His 12-foot strawberry-red crepe-mobile known as La Crepe D'Or (the Golden Crepe) makes the rounds to festivals and craft fairs around West Central Florida.

"It's so big that I had to buy a truck to pull it," he explains as he climbs inside the red trailer parked in his driveway when he's not on the road.

He outfitted the crepe-mobile with two gas crepemakers and hooks in front of the windows to hang his trademark blue-and-white enamelware.

"I'm learning that people like to watch me make the crepes in front of them," he says. "But they don't want to wait long, either. I'm working on a way to find a balance."

His menu includes buckwheat flour crepes filled with blue cheese, spinach and apple; smoked salmon capers and sour creme; and Brie, mushrooms and onions. For dessert, there are varieties filled with chocolate; strawberries; and cinnamon, sugar and lemon.

"The secret," he says, "is in the batter. It has to be very, very smooth - no lumps."

Cooking and gardening, he says, are the essence of life.

At least, from a French perspective.

"I have been a cook always, since I was 13," he says. "And the garden is so much a part of the home, a way to bring the outdoors in and the indoors out."

Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at ebettendorf@hotmail.com.

[Last modified December 6, 2007, 07:27:29]


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