Farm-to-Table Cuisine Reigns Supreme
Burlington culinary icon Jordan Ware cooks close to the source
Before the farm-to-table movement was “cool,” Eric Warnstedt and William McNeil opened Hen of the Wood in Waterbury, Vt., in 2005 to showcase food cooked from as close to the source as possible. Fast forward, and they have a second Burlington location as well. It’s what you might call a love affair with local fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses, and it earned 35-year-old Jordan Ware his first James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northeast in 2017.
Restaurant Inc: The farm-to-fork culture is huge in Vermont. What are some of your favorite farmers, butchers and creameries?
Jordan Ware: Vermont has become a really special place for passionate people to succeed. We therefore have an amazing group of people with whom to build relationships. To name a few: Pomykala Farm, Half Pint Farm, Jasper Hill, Champlain Valley Creamery.
RI: What makes Burlington a special city?
JW: Burlington is still very much under the radar in the food world, but full of passionate people. We still have a lot of growing, but we have potential to be right there with everyone else.
RI: In the summer season, what are some of your favorite ingredients with which to cook?
JW: We are lucky to evolve with the seasons, but if I had to pick an ingredient, I would say corn. There are just so many different applications. And usually with corn comes summer mushrooms, peppers and eggplant. It’s a great time of year. Grilled Carmen peppers with some acid and salt, can’t beat it.
RI: If you have a rare night off, where do you go out to eat in Burlington?
JW: We have seen an influx of restaurants lately that friends in the community have opened. The Great Northern, Honey Road, Daedalus. Doug Paine at Hotel Vermont does a great job; I think a Caesar salad and lobster roll from Bleu is definitely one of my favorites.
RI: If you have another rare night off and want to cook at home, what do you make?
JW: We usually stop by Jericho Settlers Farm and just grill whatever is in season, plus a good rib-eye from LaPlatte River Angus Farm.
RI: Breweries are huge in Vermont. Do you have a favorite one?
JW: Zero Gravity is awesome and they have a killer Coney dog on the menu. The wine world is growing here as well. Iapetus and La garagista are crushing it.
RI: How did it feel to represent the Northeast as a James Beard Semifinalist for Best Chef?
JW: I think anyone from Burlington who is represented helps everyone’s boat float a little higher. In saying that, there are a lot of people who make a restaurant run. We have a killer team here at Hen that I am extremely fortunate to be around. They all deserve the recognition just as much.
RI: What does a busy night at Hen of the Wood look like?
JW: A lot of oysters! Burlington Hen is a very busy restaurant. Big crew, a lot of food, and we try to squeeze some fun into the mayhem.
RI: Other than dining, what’s your favorite thing to do in Burlington?
JW: I love to fly-fish when I can and spend time with my wife Dana and my dog O.P.
RI: What do you predict is the future of dining in Burlington?
JW: I think we are an emerging scene in the country. I don’t want to say we are the next New York City or Boston, but I think we are a community that can stay true to what we believe and create more opportunities for everyone.