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Meet Chef David Zaquine, Founder of Sweet Rehab: New York’s Premium Patisserie


When I walked into Sweet Rehab, the place in Soho to find truffle and caviar madeleines, for my interview with French Executive Chef David Zaquine, the cafe was hopping. Word has gotten around about the patisserie’s French eclairs, cake jars, brioches, croissants, financiers, and other desserts that are all made from scratch in an open kitchen. Sweet Rehab is known for its unique “a la minute” preparation of orders: patrons choose their ingredients, then have the fun of watching Chefs David and Antoine Bernard make their pastries. On top of that, the chefs are chatty and frequently explain to customers the intricacies of their baking techniques. It makes for a high-end yet friendly environment, and when Chef David saw I had arrived, another chef stepped in so he could talk to me for a few minutes. I would find Chef David to be a man who is very passionate about French desserts as well as the impact that Sweet Rehab is having on the New York community.

“The success we are having today is everything I dreamed of when I first envisioned Sweet Rehab five years ago,” Chef David said. “Starting a restaurant, especially during the lockdown, was as difficult as you would expect. I kept going, however, because I knew that there was a large market for delicate, elegant, French pastries and for a bakery that stays open until midnight. As you can see, customers are very enthusiastic about us.”

The road to Sweet Rehab can be traced back to when Chef David was 17, when he watched a report on French gastronomy and luxurious Michelin three-star establishments (palaces, restaurants, and hotels).

“It really left an impression on me,” he remembers. “From then on, I knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life: to serve the best of dishes, including pastries, in high-end establishments.”

He would go on to study at the prestigious Ferrandi French School of Culinary Arts in Paris. Chef David smiles when he thinks back on those days as a student. “It was tough, no doubt about it,” he admits. “Yet, I learned so much and was surrounded by incredible mentors. It really laid the foundation for what I am doing now at Sweet Rehab.”

Chef David’s first job was as an apprentice at the chocolate factory of Jacques Genin in Paris. Then, for the next few years, he worked as Chef de Partie (Station Chef) under the Executive Pastry Chefs at a few Michelin-starred and highly renowned establishments in Paris: first the Four Seasons George V, then at Plaza Athénée (both in the 8th arrondissement), and finally at Park Hyatt Vendôme. 

“I was definitely living the dream I had had since I was seventeen,” Chef David recalls. “My career really kicked in, though, when I participated in the Master Class of influential Chef Christophe Michalak and worked closely with Chef Yann Menguy, founder of La Goutte d’Or. The techniques and secrets to cooking well that I learned all helped me become a chef on a completely new level.”

In 2015, Chef David crossed the Atlantic and came to New York City, where he became the Executive Pastry Chef at Bagatelle, the highest position in the pastry industry. For the next three years, he would use his expertise to delight patrons with his high-end desserts.

Leaving to start Sweet Rehab was not a difficult decision. “I enjoyed what I was doing at the Bagatelle, and I still miss my peers,” Chef David says. “However, I had met Antoine, who is an incredible chef and also had a desire to step out into entrepreneurship. It was just the right time for us to strike out on our own.”

With the success of Sweet Rehab, Chef David is scouting for a second location to open Bread Rehab in NYC.“The concept will stay the same: everything will be done ‘a la minute’ in front of the customer as they order. Individuals will choose their type of flour, butter, bread, and topping(s) and get to watch the assembly of their order,” he explains.

These days (and nights), Chef David is surrounded by dough, white pistachios, chocolate chips, butter, teas, smoothies, champagne, and wine. He says that no matter how many Wild Strawberry Tarts or Le Fraisiers he makes, he never gets tired of his art or of the questions from curious patrons.

“I have had some amazing conversations with customers at Sweet Rehab,” Chef David says. “Out in the world, they probably have all kinds of stresses to deal with, but when they come inside, they leave all of that behind them. For an hour or two, they simply enjoy some delicious pastries, savor some wine, and learn more about how eclairs are made. I like to think that Sweet Rehab is helping the world to be just a little more peaceful. When you are eating a madeleine or a brioche, it’s easy to set aside your worries and simply focus on the unforgettable uniqueness of French desserts.”

Sweet Rehab, located in Soho, New York, is a luxurious French patisserie that is known for its up-scale elegant desserts, truffle and caviar madeleines, and large selection of French Mariage Freres tea. Its open kitchen allows customers to see the bakers preparing their desserts on the spot in front of them. Sweet Rehab’s chefs each have over fifteen years of experience in some of the most highly respected restaurants and establishments in France and New York. Sweet Rehab is open until midnight and offers dine-in, take-out, and delivery. 

For more information on Sweet Rehab, please contact:

Anne Hirsch, Operations Director

sweetrehabnyc.com | @sweetrehabny

[email protected]