There is much more than meets the eye at Le Moulin on Main Street in Irvington. Josyane Colwell’s storefront may appear a humble café to passersby, but behind the forest green doors, she is operating a full-scale event planning and catering firm.
The prestigious, thirty-year-old Le Moulin has been headquartered in Irvington for the last twenty-four years. Café customers can enjoy dishes like chicken Milanese, or grilled fennel with peas and cauliflower as I did, but daily offerings reflect but a mere fraction of the cuisine you can expect from a Colwell affair.
Colwell did not receive any formal chef training, but the breadth of her culinary talent would fool you. I sat down with her one morning this summer to learn a little more about her business. Colwell, fondly known as “Josy,” shared with me dozens of photos from a wide array of events that showcased her seemingly boundless capabilities in the kitchen. As evidenced by these images, Colwell has the prowess to plate hors d’oeuvres beautifully, while paying careful attention to taste.
But Colwell is more than just a highly skilled caterer. Her company offers comprehensive event planning experience that clients can make use of to whatever extent they’d like, whether in need of guidance in selecting or designing an event space, or coordinating entertainment and transportation. Many high profile clients regularly seek out Colwell’s expertise, including Vera Wang (a customer of over fifteen years) and Fortune Magazine. Popular among residents in the greater New York City area, Le Moulin puts on twenty to thirty memorable events per month, with summer the busiest season.
Colwell’s unquestionably successful career began almost by accident, after she planned a party for a friend. Little did she know that within a few years, she’d be executing 400-person corporate events and weddings, each more spectacular than the next!
As she developed and expanded Le Moulin, Colwell learned how to wear many different hats in order to ensure the smooth execution of events. She stressed the importance of flexibility in her line of work and the necessity of preparedness: at any point, she might be required to step in to assist in various capacities. You never know when linens might arrive wrinkled, or tomatoes bruised.
Of course, there’s considerable synchronization involved in successful catering, as everyone must be served at the same time. Producing 350 salad plates simultaneously requires a serious level of organization, another pillar of Le Moulin.
Above all, however, Colwell places the greatest value on the personal relationships she builds with her clients—particularly, with brides. This came at no surprise, given Colwell’s warm nature and palpable passion, both of which effortlessly shown through during our conversation. Impressively, Colwell has kept up with many brides for years past their weddings and even helped orchestrate baby showers and subsequent milestones. Regardless of the duration of involvement, Colwell takes care to fully understand the person with whom she’s working. She does not take lightly the responsibility of having his or her trust and finds nothing more rewarding than taking care of someone well.
After drooling over pristine food photos galore, I asked Colwell what she cooks for herself. She laughed and told me she has no time to do so—and that funnily enough, she is more familiar with cooking for large groups rather than for one.
Her cuisine at Le Moulin draws upon influences from the French, Italian, and Mediterranean styles of cooking. Colwell personally crafts the menu for each occasion and loves to experiment in the kitchen while doing so. A self-proclaimed chemist of sorts, Colwell spends hours recipe innovating. At the root of this effort is the notion that food is so much more than filling your stomach; Colwell aspires to evoke emotion from those looking at it and then eating it.
Colwell also noted that she doesn’t approve of disguising food as something else: “if it’s duck, it must taste like duck!”
As for her personal favorite dishes, Colwell appreciates good homemade pasta or a beautiful piece of fish. She grew up largely on Mediterranean food, so this is fitting. Colwell was also raised on organic food, so she has been choosy about where she sources her ingredients since before it was trendy. She buys local wherever possible, visiting nearby farms often, especially in the summertime.
Colwell’s outdoorsy upbringing is present in both her palate and her design “palette,” if you will. She is often involved in the décor elements of an event and describes her love of building “gardens.” Colwell constructs gorgeous, vibrant, and leafy fixtures as centerpieces or elaborate displays of vegetables. Wherever possible and appropriate, Colwell brings the surrounding landscape into the party environment, with the capacity and vision to revolutionize any space. In sum, Le Moulin’s dynamic and mouthwatering food pairs best with a uniquely beautiful setting.
In listening to tales of Colwell’s childhood, I found myself wondering about the company’s namesake. The following is lifted from a brief bio Colwell shared with me: “Le Moulin is, of course, a mill. Striding a stream (her Marketplace, in historic Irvington, New York, overlooks a very large ‘stream’ indeed – the Hudson River). And a mill, again of course, works hard. It is there to transform things, but by making them into what they are truly meant to be.”
“Le Moulin,” it turns out, could not be a more accurate descriptor.