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First Tastes- Top Chefs Recall First Food Memories

VFN Executive Chefs Doug Paine of Bleu Northeast Seafood and Juniper Bar & Restaurant, Phillip Clayton of The Farmhouse Group, and Eric Warnstedt of Hen of the Wood are teaming up to benefit a cause near and dear to our hearts, Jr Iron Chef.

The Jr Iron Chef competition gives middle and high schoolers from across the state the opportunity to try their hand at the culinary arts. Teams practice for months; sharpening their knife skills, mastering the mother sauces and working together to create a signature recipe that they bring to the competition. Check out the South Burlington team cooking up some homemade ramen on the news here. 

The benefit dinner, coming up on March 12th at Bleu Northeast Seafood, will bring the three DigIn VT chefs together to create a paired feast with a raw bar to start and Sweet Simone's providing dessert. The dinner celebrates the 10th birthday of Vermont Jr Iron Chef and all proceeds benefit the important event. Check out the menu and buy tickets here.

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

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." 

Eric Warnstedt, Hen of the Wood 

"I remember my grandmother feeding me escargot. I wasn't an adventurous eater but I always loved seafood. They came in a can attached to a plastic tube of shells. You could stuff them back in the shells with garlic, butter, parsley etc. They were glorious and I always order snails whenever I see them."

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