Eric Warnstedt

F&W Star Chef

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Restaurant: Hen of the Wood (Waterbury, VT)

What dish you are most famous for?
Hen of the Wood mushroom toast made with local grain bread, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, house bacon and a poached farm egg. Our bread comes from Red Hen Baking Company, and the loaf is called Cyrus Pringle. It’s one of the only breads that’s made with all-Vermont wheat.

What’s your current food obsession?
Whole goats. Using the whole animal is a new thing in Vermont that’s really exciting. We get in beautiful pastured goats and have been doing tartare, confited shoulder, rib rack, sausage, you name it.

What will we always find in your fridge?
Lots of cheese, milk and cereal. I eat the organic versions of all the bad cereals. It makes me feel a little bit better about it.

Who is your food mentor?
From afar, I started cooking with people like Judy Rodgers at Zuni Café, chefs from Chez Panisse, and chefs from the Pacific Northwest, like Tom Douglas, Cory Schreiber of Wildwood and Patrick O’Connell. I read like crazy during those years. My own food evolved out of a handful of books that were hyper-focused on regions.

What do you like to drink?
The beer scene here is great. The best beer in the world—Heady Topper—is brewed in the town that I live in. On BeerAdvocate, it was rated the No. 1 beer in the world.

What’s something you love to do besides cooking?
Collect rock and roll art. I have lots of cool signed concert bills. I don’t want to sound too hippie-dippie, but I have some original Ken Kesey drawings and prints that are signed by him.

2008 Best New Chef Bio

Why he won Because he takes great advantage of Vermont’s farmers and cheesemakers for his terrific New American dishes.

Born Ft. Lauderdale; 1975.

Education Johnson & Wales University, North Miami.

Experience Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, VT; Wildwood, Portland, OR.

Memorable cooking experience At Smokejacks in Burlington, VT, he catered a dinner for the band Phish. “It was the first time I cooked for someone I’d heard of.”

Ingredient obsession “I’ve become hooked on the cheeses at Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, VT.”

Favorite cheap eat “The blue-cheese brew burger at the Alchemist in Waterbury. And their beer is the best in the Northeast.”