It already feels unseasonably warm at Lolita Tartine when chef Thomas Grzybinski walks out of the kitchen mopping his brow. The dining room, though, is cool as the lunch crowd slowly disperses, pausing to express their multilingual compliments as Grzybinski takes a seat in the corner with owner Christophe Coutelle. It’s been three months since he left France for Lolita Tartine and the Sarasota shores. And things are just heating up. Soft-spoken but eager-eyed, Grzybinski’s seated energy is palpable—an urge to industry tempered only by his desire to satisfy this stranger’s questions. It’s a similarly dichotomous drive that rewards his culinary endeavors. “The creation is, of course, interesting,” he says, speaking through Coutelle as translator, “but the most rewarding is when someone loves your food.”

At the ripe young age of 24, Grzybinski brings experience belying his years—he studied for five years in France, plied his trade in the kitchen of the acclaimed Hotel Novotel for three and spread his wings as the chef of an Italian restaurant for one. “It’s my passion,” he says. “It’s exactly what I want to do.” With a culinary style specializing in French and Italian, Grzybinski fits right into the Lolita Tartine menu but brings an added kick with an extra layer of spice. “It’s more like worldwide cuisine,” he says. “It just opens the taste a little bit more than being only French.”“He’s a young guy and he’s got ideas,” says Coutelle. Ribbing each other in French, Coutelle treats Grzybinski less like a new employee and more like a newfound mentee, which is perhaps why Grzybinski already refers to Lolita Tartine as “a big family.” Though Grzybinski first must adapt to and adopt the Lolita Tartine style, Coutelle looks forward to letting his new charge take the reins a bit. “Thomas is young, he’s open-minded, has the skills and training and we’re going to develop Lolita Tartine together,” says Coutelle. “I love Rosemary District and we’re going to do great here.” 

Lolita Tartine, 1419 5th Street, Sarasota, 941-952-3172.