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First Tastes - Top Chefs Recall First Food Memories

January 31, 2018

VFN chefs Doug Paine of Bleu Northeast Seafood, Phillip Clayton of The Farmhouse Group, Cara Chigazola-Tobin of Honey Road, and Frank Pace of the The Great Northern are teaming up to benefit a cause near and dear to our hearts - Jr Iron Chef Vermont.

The Jr Iron Chef competition gives middle and high schoolers from across the state the skills and the stage to explore their culinary talents. Teams practice for months: sharpening their knife skills, mastering the mother sauces, and working together to create a signature recipe to bring to the competition. 

The benefit dinner, coming up on February 9th at Guild Tavern, will bring the four VFN chefs together for an evening of local beverages, tantalizing cuisine, and a silent auction you won't want to miss! All proceeds benefit Jr Iron Chef. Check out the menu and buy tickets here.

It made us wonder, how did VFN professional chefs get their start? So we asked a few of the collaborating chefs - what was your first or most important food memory? The taste that shaped your future? 

Cara Chigazola-Tobin, Honey Road

"Some of my earliest food memories are in my grandmother's kitchen. She was born and raised in the south, and as far as I can remember she always had cornbread in the oven no matter what day it was. She would cook all the big family holiday meals. They would be so elaborate - roasts, scallop potatoes, olives, salads, fresh bread, homemade jellies, pies, cookies, and my favorite Grasshopper Pie. What I remember the most is when she would go to the commissary and get fresh black-eyed peas. She would set me up at the kitchen table with a basket of beans and a bowl full of pickles. I would eat pickles, watch her daytime soap operas and shuck black-eyed peas. I didn’t know how lucky I was. It was those dinners, being in her kitchen and her southern hospitality that hooked me into the food industry. I know that for sure."

Doug Paine, Bleu Northeast Seafood and Juniper Bar & Restaurant at Hotel Vermont

"My grandmother used to live in this really old farmhouse in Saxton's River. A lot of my early food memories come from this house. I remember there being an old style pantry in the unheated part of the house. I could always find something good in there. One of my favorite things she used to make stuffed quahogs (they moved to Vermont from Fall River, MA when my mom was a kid). They were always delicious but the thing that still sticks with me is we used to throw the shells in the driveway so they would get all smashed up cover like gravel. My grandmother would joke about how in a hundred years from now people would find the shells and wonder how they got there so far from the coast." 

Phillip Clayton, Farmhouse Group 

"One of my favorite food memories from my childhood is the tomato sandwiches that my mom would make with her homegrown tomatoes. My grandfather passed down a love of growing tomatoes to her, and eventually to me. She would toast white bread and spread Duke's mayonnaise on both slices. Then she'd layer it with sliced tomatoes and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. I would eat dozens every summer because they were one of the most simple and perfect foods I've ever had."

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