Connecticut is rich in culinary treasures, attested to by the five chefs profiled below. These masters of the kitchen arts know how to tempt, tease and satisfy their diners, whether it be those seeking the grand soufflé or simple comfort food and cupcakes.
73 Elm St
New Canaan, CT 06840
Connecticut’s shore has no shortage of celebrities, but when actor Richard Gere went looking for a chef to co-create the Bedford Post Inn, he chose Wilton’s own Brian Lewis. The former chef at Lutece, Oceana and The Sign of the Dove wanted more, however, and last fall opened his own place in New Canaan. The Elm Restaurant is located on where else? Elm Street. “Rooted in tradition, inspired by the seasons,” is the motto emblazoned on his menu, and while this self-labeled “American Chef” says he cooks “modern American food in a very grounded way,” he is as open to innovation and experimentation as are his celebrity backers and fans. From Maine halibut done in a vaudavan curry to his unique duo of veal hay and ash, Lewis manipulates traditional menus made with local ingredients to create unique and clever but always satisfying dishes. His tasting menu at Elm is legendary – as those fortunate enough to book a table will confirm.
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Simsbury, CT 06070
Good chefs are always searching for unique combinations or new methods that will enhance their menus. While many are very proprietary about their discoveries, there are a generous few who burn to share what they have discovered with their colleagues, competitors and customers (or at least those customers who think they can cook). Christopher Prosperi of Métro Bis in Simsbury is one such bighearted chef. Routinely voted one of the top five chefs in the state, Prosperi’s passion is for tasting menus. Prosperi holds regular classes at Delia, The Viking Home Kitchen Showcase, Sur la Table and the Silo Cooking School, writes a column for the Hartford Courant and makes frequent appearances on local radio and television. Although famous for his American-bistro style, Prosperi’s most recent experiments have been venturing out to include Asian influences as well.
The Captain Daniel Packer Inne, Restaurant and Pub
32 Water St
Mystic, CT 06355
Paul runs the kitchen at the cozy colonial Mystic seaport Captain Daniel Packer Inne, Restaurant and Pub. Paul prides himself on an “eclectic” menu which ranges from traditional New England seafood to Thai curries, along with some hearty twists to pub favorites such as his angus beef chili nachos. Chef Paul is not shy about competing for titles either. His “Bomster Scallops” won him first place in the First Annual Jonathan Edwards Winery’s Culinary Showdown in 2011, and this year his beef tenderloin with creamy gorgonzola and walnut demi-glace served on a Lighthouse Bakery crouton took second in a very close cook-off at the Showdown.
500 Steamboat Road
Greenwich, CT 06830
What meal is truly complete without dessert? Those who dine at Greenwich’s L’ Escale may come for the main course but they stay for the last, especially when Wendy Laurent offers her signature crème de la crème ice cream to top off her awesome fresh apple tart with frangipane filling. A local girl who went to Belgium to learn the art of the patisserie the old-fashioned way, this pastry chef has turned her hometown upside down not with cake but with profiteroles (and her soufflés are a puff of pure paradise).
The Other Woman
Not all great chefs work in restaurant kitchens; some of the finest, especially in Connecticut, take their art on the road as caterers. One of the finest of this band of traveling masters is Chef Lauren Polastri of The Other Woman. A private chef who will prepare anything from a special-occasion dining experience for two to a drop-off family meal to catering banquets and barbecues, Polastri will even plan the music and hire the entertainers and parking attendants for a birthday, bridal shower or other special event. While her menus are deeply rooted in the cuisine of the Connecticut shoreline, she is so comfortable with exotic menus that she even teaches cooking classes for teenagers in Indian, Moroccan, Thai, Vietnamese, Northern Italian, Mexican and “comfort food and cupcakes.”
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Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience, most notably but not exclusively in the fields of international relations and history specifically military history. His work can be found at Examiner.com.