The award-winning Executive Chef of Twin Farms in the USA is continually inspired by Vermont’s exceptional produce, meats and cheeses.
Among the many special things about Twin Farms is its deep sense of place. The 300-acre property in Barnard, Vermont is not only rich in history –it’s the former home of Nobel Prize- winning author Sinclair Lewis and his journalist wife Dorothy Thompson, whose career inspired the classic Katharine Hepburn film Woman Of The Year—but its celebrated culinary program is intimately tied to local food producers.
Executive Chef Nathan Rich estimates that he works with a dozen nearby farmers. “Some of them are just a mile down the road,” he says as he stands in property’s two-acre garden, which bursts with some 75 varieties of produce and herbs.
On this crisp autumn morning, resident Twin Farmer Kenny Donovan presents Chef Nathan with a bumper crop of Swiss chard, which he decides he will puree with roasted garlic and cream for his handmade lemon and ricotta agnolotti. “That will make a beautiful green pasta sauce,” he says with satisfaction. Every day, the chef fashions an original menu for dinner, based on the changing seasons and what is available from the farm and the garden. “The fun part is that guests don’t get a menu, so the whole dinner is a surprise.”
The commute isn’t bad, either—he lives so close by that in warmer weather, he can ride his bike to work. A typical day begins around eight in the morning, when he checks in on the breakfast service and catches up with Pastry Chef Chris Wilson. Then his phone begins pinging with texts from farmers. On this morning, one farmer had some pork tenderloin, which the chef decided he would serve with zucchini, beets, turmeric carrot puree, and matsutake mushrooms just delivered from a local forager.
“Most people don’t even know that matsutake mushrooms grow in Vermont, but they do. The state has such an amazing variety of locally grown foods, from produce to meat to dairy.”
The butter served with Wilson’s delectable house-made breads, for instance, hails from Ploughgate Creamery in Fayston. “That farm is the furthest away, at over an hour, but it’s worth it” Chef Nathan says with a laugh. “It’s this small-batch artisanal cultured butter made from Vermont cream. People staying at Twin Farms always tell me, ‘We’ve traveled all over the world, and this is the best butter we’ve ever had.’ ”
Similarly, every one of the 25 cheeses he serves comes from the Green Mountain State. “If I make pasta, sometimes a guest will say, ‘Why don’t you have any Parmesan cheese from Italy?’ Which I respond that we have awesome cheeses right here in Vermont, we don’t need to get them anywhere else.”
The New Hampshire native has been at Twin Farms for seven years, and says the best thing about his job is the people. “I couldn’t do this without my team. We’re all very collaborative, and I really want everyone’s input.” Then he is off to the kitchen to make some culinary magic. After dinner service, he’ll check in one more time with Pastry Chef Chris, by 9:30pm or so, he hops on his bike and heads for home. “I used to work in the city, and sometimes I’d get home at 1 in the morning.” Then he grins. “Now that I have a wife, three kids, and a dog, this is much better.”