The Okemo Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce is offering a 2011 "A Taste of Every Season" dining calendar. Twelve restaurants within the Okemo Valley have showcased their signature recipe, along with a picture of their dish.
Among the chefs who participated are Okemo Mountain Resort Executive Chef Michael Breen who was recently designated Certified Executive Chef by The American Culinary Federation. The Executive Chef certification identifies those chefs who have demonstrated a level of culinary competence and expertise through their education, work experience, culinary knowledge and skills consistent with the executive chef level. The ACF Executive Chef certification is the fourth level of official recognition in the organization's Cooking Professional category. It is eclipsed only by the elite Master Chef designation.
Another Chef who participated is from the Inn at Weathersfield, Chef Jason Tostrup, who began his culinary career in Aspen at The Renaissance in 1996. He worked his way up the kitchen ladder, starting as a pastry assistant, moving to roundsman, then sous-chef. In 1999 Jason was promoted to Executive Chef. During his tenure at The Renaissance, Jason was instrumental in establishing the restaurant's reputation for world class, award winning cuisine recognized for its' excellence by The James Beard Foundation. In 2002, Jason moved to Napa Valley to work as Sous Chef at Thomas Keller's bistro outpost, Bouchon. While in Napa, Jason had the opportunity to enjoy life in the California wine country and explore its commitment to farming, agriculture and sustainability.
In his constant quest for fresh food and local products, Jason made the decision to come to Vermont where local products are a way of life. "I wanted to be closer to the seasons, the products and the farmers. That connection is so important to me." Since moving to Vermont and taking charge of the Inn at Weathersfield dining operations, he has developed strong alliances with area growers and producers. These strong relationships and his commitment to local producers have made Jason and the Inn at Weathersfield a leader in the Farm to Table movement in Vermont. Jason has been awarded the Sante Culinary Arts Award for 'Sustainable Cuisine - New England', been invited to The James Beard House in NYC to showcase his signature 'Verterra' cuisine, and is featured in the PBS series "Endless Feasts" - a documentary about local farms. Most recently the restaurant at The Inn has been named 'The best restaurant in Vermont' by Fodors Travel guides, and is among Bon Apetite Magazines "Hot 10 Culinary Inns in America".
Through his career, Jason had the unique opportunity to spend time working in some of NY's finest kitchens including an apprenticeship at Jean George at Trump International, and work at Daniel, Vong, JoJo and Aquavit. Jason's many culinary accomplishments include participation in three James Beard dinners and as a featured host chef invited to celebrate Julia Childs 90th birthday.
Another participating restaurant comes from the Echo Lake Inn. In 1984 Chef Kevin Barnes graduated from Johnson and Wales Culinary school with honors and then worked for 2 prestigious hotel chains before finding his true vocation - cheffing at a country inn. After graduation, Kevin worked as a sous chef at one of Vermont's most luxurious country inns and then as executive chef for two other historic inns before taking the position as executive chef for the Echo Lake Inn in early 1989. During these past twenty one years, Kevin's culinary achievements have been featured in numerous magazines including Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Vermont Magazine, Okemo Magazine and published in many travel books and newspapers. His recipes can be found in country inn cookbooks as well. Once you have dined at the Echo lake Inn you will understand why his food is featured so often. One of Kevin's recipes was used as part of a "Taste of Vermont" campaign to promote the many flavors of Vermont. Kevin utilizes many products from local farms on his menu and is a firm believer in "farm to table" practices.
The Fullerton Inn in Chester is proud of their Head Chef, James Beliveau. James started his career in Massachusetts, helping his mother in the kitchen preparing the family dinner. He is inspired by the memory of is mother saying, "You have a real knack for cooking." After that he was a constant fixture in the kitchen. As a teenager James worked summers in a Manchester, Vermont restaurant. With the patience, respect and guidance from the owner, James developed his desire to become a chef.
James culinary education continued at Paul Smiths College in the Adirondacks where he received his culinary degree. This led to his externship at Beachwood Hotel in Worchester, Massachusetts. With a passion for downhill skiing, James was lured to Colorado where he accepted a position in a kitchen in Steamboat Springs. James remembers his time with this chef as a very momentous step on his road to culinary achievement. The chef there helped him explore the use of fresh, local foods and truly develop his talents for cooking. He advised James that "if you have a passion for food, the customer will be able to taste it in everything you make." James took this to heart and makes it a driving principle in all of his pursuits.
Chef James returned to New England and his family and worked in several well-known establishments in the southern Vermont region. In 2006 he joined the Fullerton Inn staff as sous chef and has brought his skills to the operation of the kitchen and the presentation of the meals. He was responsible for the creation and preparation of the lunch menu. He was also responsible for designing specials for Monday nights and occasionally for other evening meals. He has always enjoyed his time at the Fullerton Inn and he is comfortable with the owners, Bret & Nancy Rugg, the wait staff and his kitchen staff. He states that "It is like a family here. Everyone is very friendly and pleasant to work with." Chef James feels great support for his culinary endeavors from the owners and staff. He would like to especially acknowledge the incredible support of his wife, Heather.
Those are just a few of the Top Chef's who participated in our 2011 "A Taste of Every Season" dining calendar. These will make excellent holiday gifts and a portion of the sales will go for a scholarship at the River Valley Technical School to help a student going into the culinary field.