Introducing Our Farm to Flanders – Gourmet Picnic Chefs
MICHAEL BATES – WALSH / CHEF – OWNER
1754 House Inn Restaurant & Tavern
506 Main St So.
Meet Chef Michael Bates-Walsh, owner of 1754 House. While he oversees the operation of the inn, restaurant & tavern, his creativity and talent account for the masterpieces created in the kitchen, preparing seasonal menus based on regional, locally-sourced sustainable ingredients.
As a child, it was Chef Michael’s grandmother who instilled the love of entertaining in him. Hosting friends and family, she taught Michael the importance of “rolling out the red carpet”. He is known for making dining room appearances to meet his guests and make sure everyone is enjoying themselves. Still, more inspiration came from his mother Jean, whom he calls Nona. “I remember summer weekend mornings, we would sit on the terrace of our farmhouse in New Hampshire, enjoying my mother’s Dutch pancake, fondly named “Nona’s Pancake”, a fixture on the menu and a guest favorite!
Chef Michael began his culinary career in high school, making bagels before his classes and working various restaurant jobs. He fell in love with the fast-paced environment and team mentality. Before acquiring the 1754 House, he was Executive Chef at the Copper Grouse in Manchester, VT until June 2019. Prior to the Copper Grouse, he was Executive Chef at the Beauport Hotel in Gloucester, MA, which he helped open in 2016. He was the Executive Chef at the Cohasset Harbor Resort in Cohasset, MA and spent time in Portland, ME, where he opened the Westin Portland Harborview Hotel. Earlier in his career, Chef Michael spent five years at The Equinox, a Luxury Collection Golf Resort & Spa in Manchester, VT.
When not at the 1754 House, Chef Michael spends time with his 8-year-old son Anderson and his wife Hannah. You may see Anderson in the lobby welcoming guests or working from his makeshift office! You may also find Hannah helping out at the inn, perfecting the décor or lending a hand wherever needed.
“This is an exciting adventure for me, my family, and the 1754 team,” says Chef Michael. “To own and operate the inn, restaurant and tavern, is a dream come true. I am looking forward to meeting our guests, and contributing to their enjoyment of local cuisine and life’s celebrations.”
JOHN BOURDEAU / CHEF – OWNER
The Owl – Modern Wine Bar
18 East Shore Road
New Preston, CT
Ever since John Bourdeau was 8 or 9 years old, he wanted to be a chef and run his own restaurant. He would read food magazines like Gourmet, and lots of cookbooks, learning as much as he could. Growing up on a farm in Woodbury, helping his parents raise cattle and other animals, he understood how important it was to begin cooking with food from the source. (Happening in the Hills, July 2016).
Locals will remember John as the Chef/Owner of the highly regarded Main Street Grill in Watertown, which opened in 2012. In Connecticut Food and Farm magazine’s summer 2017 edition Hilary Adorno writes: “In 2012 John opened Main Street Grill, which I considered to be one of the finest restaurants in Litchfield County…..” While wowing patrons at Main Street Grill, John’s extensive experience and interest in the food and wine industry led to new opportunities. He became co-owner of Highland Brass Company in Waterbury, and in 2016, opened a new wine bar called The Owl in the historic village of New Preston. The Owl quickly became the ‘in place to be’ according to Happening in the Hills. To the disappointment of Main Street Grill fans, John made the decision to close the restaurant this year in order to focus on his burgeoning new venture, The Owl.
Adorno writes: “The Owl, [is] a beautifully-located, ridiculously cool wine bar steps away from the southernmost point of Lake Waramaug….. During colder months, the intimate space comfortably seats 25. Guests can enjoy their libations by firelight… Come more temperate weather… there is a gorgeous al fresco patio and lawn area which can be tented for special events for as many as 100.” According to 2017 Happening in the Hills: “Washington residents are thrilled to have another place to go to after a movie, after work, or a concert. The new wine bar is a place to gather with friends, enjoy a glass of wine or two, and nibble on cheese and crackers without having a huge meal. With John Bourdeau at the helm, The Owl will surely be a success.”
DENNIS DEBELLIS / CHEF – OWNER
693 Main Street South
Growing up in New Milford, Connecticut, Chef DeBellis remembers fondly waking up to the aromas of his mother’s cooking, and helping to prep the food the night before Thanksgivings. “Thanksgivings were huge in my house and still are; no presents, just food!”(Unlocking Litchfield, 2017).
With his passion for food and cooking firmly in place, Chef DeBellis graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1994. “I worked for three years at the Mayflower Inn in Washington back in its heyday when it first started earning its 5 stars, 5 diamonds, and Relais & Chateaux status.” It was at the Mayflower where he learned from Chefs John Farnsworth and Chris Freeman standards that he still practices today. In 1998, Chef DeBellis was the opening sous chef for the Lakeview Inn on Lake Waramaug. The Inn was owned by Dorothy and Doug Hamilton, also owners of the French Culinary Institute in SoHo, where Chef DeBellis studied bread baking.
In 2000, Chef DeBellis began working at John’s Café. After 15 years as the chef, he made it his own. Of Dennis DeBellis and John’s Café, John Torsiello of the Register Citizen writes: “His eyes dance when he talks about his passion for cooking and managing a bistro-style restaurant in an area that has a discerning audience. ‘This is what I think about morning, noon and night’, says DeBellis. ..He has made changes at the popular dining establishment, as well as to its menu, attracting a loyal following among area foodies.“ Recently Chef DeBellis also partnered with the Woodbury Farm Market on a food truck venture focusing on The Big Egg Grill, the world’s best kamado style grill!
Chef DeBellis has left his own mark on John’s Café, transforming it into one of the most respected restaurants in town. “It’s been known for its pasta dishes, made fresh, such as the Sunday Gravy Rigatoni, with meatballs and Italian sausage. No change there. It now serves mainly local dishes on a pared-down menu. “We enjoy making your meal just the way you like it…. Creating a dish, cooking it, having someone enjoy it, that’s what I live for.” (Unlocking Litchfield, Sept. 2016).
DEREK DUGAN / EXECUTIVE CHEF
Lucas Local Oyster Bar Land and Sea Grill
775 Main Street South
Chef Derek Dugan is a lifelong Connecticut native, born and raised in Danbury. Raised by a single working mother, he spent much of his youth in the kitchen with his grandmother. Derek would help his grandmother with kitchen tasks and a love of food began to grow. At the age of 9, Derek landed his first “job”, folding pizza boxes at the neighborhood pizza shop. He would watch the cooks stretching pizza dough in the kitchen as he worked.
During his working career Derek attempted a multitude of different professions. Interlaced with stints in fast food and short order kitchens, he tried his hand in construction, masonry, mechanics and technology. After an extended period working in a semiconductor lab, Derek decided it was time to stop working for just the paycheck and start working for the passion. He enrolled in Lincoln Culinary Institute where he met a chef instructor and restaurant owner that recognized not only Derek’s passion for food but desire and drive to learn more about the business aspects of the hospitality industry. He began to mentor and guide Derek in many aspects of the hospitality industry outside of the school’s normal curriculum. To this day, they still remain in contact.
When not in the kitchen Derek enjoys spending much of his free time with his pit bull, Lagertha. As an avid reader, Derek enjoys horror and fantasy novels, biographies and any cooking related writings. When he finds the time Derek also paints scale miniatures and models, and has a passion for brewing beer and wine.
ASHLEY NELSON / COOKIE ARTIST – OWNER
Sweet Nelsons Cookie & Sweet Shop
3 Flanders Road
Ashley Nelson is a Mom of 4 who took her love of making sweets for her kid’s birthday parties and turned it into Sweet Nelson’s Custom Cookie and Sweet Shop in Bethlehem. Sweet Nelsons started as a little Cottage Food Operation at her home in Woodbury but quickly outgrew the family’s kitchen. The sweet shop has shelves filled with chocolate confections, fudge, sweet and sour candy and cookies. Each week, 6 flavors of gourmet cookies are freshly made along with hand decorated sugar cookies.
In her June 2021 article, Marie Magoch states, “Sweet Nelson’s is where you can pick up your own cookie order that will make that sweet tooth happy and leave you craving more.” She goes on to say that “each of the intricate artistic designs makes each cookie into its own unique piece of artwork which is as delightful to look at as they are to eat.” The reviews on social media are equally impressive! One recent reviewer writing, “Everything you get from Sweet Nelsons is amazing. You will not be disappointed. Cookies are perfect and taste like heaven!”
CLARK NEUGOLD / CHEF – OWNER
The Foundry Kitchen & Tavern
1 Glen Road
Sandy Hook, CT
Clark Neugold has been a chef for over a decade, working all over the country from Connecticut, to Hawaii to Charleston. He has a vast range of expertise in many areas of the culinary world. He helped plan, open, and cook for many successful restaurants over the years. Starting with Connecticut’s very successful authentic wood fired pizza, Stanziato’s. Clark moved to Hawaii in 2010 to attend culinary school, which he graduated from in 2012, at the top of his class. Immediately upon graduation, he began working with world renowned Chef LeeAnne Wong, helping to build, develop the menu and perform as her sous chef at the now famous KoKo Head Cafe in Honolulu. He learned the ins and outs of Pacific-Asian cuisine, island style brunch and how to prepare fresh, local seafood. While on Oahu, he also helped open Tropics Tap House where he created and designed their menu as their Executive Chef as well as becoming head baker for Hawaiian Cheesecake Company, offering delicious, tropical Hawaiian inspired Cheesecake to the island.
Moving to Charleston in December 2015, Clark quickly became a part of the huge culinary scene. The first week in Charleston he landed a job working for Sean Brock’s Minero. There he learned the art of authentic Mexican cuisine. After a few months there, he was offered the Sous Chef position at Bill Murray’s new restaurant. Harold’s Cabin was where he was fortunate enough to spend several months focusing on the true preparation of fresh, local food. With access to a rooftop garden and working with several local farms, the idea of a vegetable driven menu was put into place. Clark was part of the opening team for the highly anticipated “Scott’s BBQ”, working under world renown “BBQ master” Rodney Scott.
After traveling around the country, Clark and his wife Kate, returned to Connecticut and reopened the Foundry Kitchen & Tavern in Sandy Hook as its new owners on April 3, 2017. They have kept the original feel of the Foundry and continue to provide fresh, unique food and handcrafted, local cocktails and spirits. Recently, Clark and Kate have opened Marygold’s on Main in Newtown and Good Old Days Pizzeria & Den also in Newtown.
DENIS NIEZ – OWNER/PASTRY CHEF
Ovens of France
660 Main Street South
A native Frenchman, who came to the United States in 1986, Denis Niez is a master baker and, lucky for those of us in Woodbury and the surrounding community, owner of Ovens of France Bakery. A staple in Woodbury for over 20 years, Ovens of France is known for hand-made croissants and myriad other delectable pastries. In a 2014 article in the Hartford Courant, Frank Cohen wrote what locals already know: “Folks who live in Woodbury, or even near it, have plenty to be thankful for, given the bucolic setting and interesting restaurants and other businesses to patronize. At the north end of Sherman Village Shopping Center…. Ovens of France has been soldiering on for years, spreading good will and gustatory delight throughout the community. Owned by Denis Niez, Ovens of France is one of Connecticut’s better French bakeries. Unlike some bake shops, which maintain frustratingly limited hours, Ovens of France is open seven days a week starting at 6 a.m. … That makes it a great breakfast stop on the way to work, a fun lunch spot, or even a place to stop in and pick up something for dinner or dessert.”“Ovens of France offers more than just pastries. There are freshly baked breads and artisan jams and jellies. There’s good coffee, as well as espresso and cappuccino. There are hot soups and quiches. There are French cheeses, gelati, sorbetti, even biscotti. But oh, the pastries!.. Not to be missed.”
CAROLE PECK – OWNER/EXECUTIVE CHEF
Good News Restaurant & Bar
694 Main Street South
Carole Peck began her love affair with food 30 years ago. A pioneer in a then male-dominated profession, she has achieved a noted reputation. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Peck worked as the executive chef at many restaurants, resorts and clubs from Cape Cod to Hilton Head, from Austin to Miami and New York City, gaining recognition and professional acclaim.
In 1988, Carole and her husband, Bernard Jarrier-Cabernet, returned to Carole’s roots and settled in Litchfield County. Carole Peck’s Restaurant opened in a charming country farmhouse in New Milford. She was committed to using the finest, locally grown and produced ingredients presented in an innovative style. The food was fresh, and the flavors were distinctive. The restaurant’s popularity rapidly grew… In 1993, she had the distinct honor of cooking for Julia Child’s 80th Birthday Bash for the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) in New Orleans.
Having outgrown the New Milford restaurant, she moved to near-by Woodbury, CT in 1992 and opened Good News Cafe. Her restaurant continued to receive attention in numerous magazine articles and outstanding reviews from Zagat’s Guide, The New York Times, Gourmet, Connecticut Magazine, Bon Appetit, House Beautiful, and Travel & Leisure. In 2000, the National Restaurant Association named Good News Cafe as the “Restaurant of the Year.”
Carole Peck was a trailblazer in the Farm-to-Table movement long before the movement began to make a statement in the food industry. Carole’s mission is to help people reconnect to their local land, as well as to the farmers and artisans who tend them.
Zagat called Good News Restaurant and Bar one of the ‘Top Restaurants in the U.S.’ It has won numerous awards and acclaim over the last 20 years. A 2011 New York Times bestseller states “it’s a one of the top 1000 places to visit in the US and Canada before you die. Combine this with an atmosphere of comfort and sophistication – original artwork by the best up-and-coming artists in the region scattered around for your viewing pleasure, creating a truly perfect setting.” (excerpted from Goodnewsrestaruantandbar.com)
CARLOS PEREZ / EXECUTIVE CHEF
@ the Corner Restaurant & Pub
3 West Street
Chef Carlos Perez trained at the French Culinary Institute, then worked at top New York restaurants before returning home to Connecticut. In 2006 Perez opened La Palette Bakery in Watertown. He operated it for 13 years, while also working as an executive chef. His vast experience includes Corporate Executive Pastry Chef Mill Restaurant Group from October 2014 to January 2016, Executive Chef West Street Grill from January 2016 to July 2017 and Executive Chef 4 Eat & Drink from February 2018 until he joined @ the Corner in early 2020 as Executive Chef.
His cuisine is described as sustainable farm-to-table cooking, paired with modern influence, playing off flavors both sweet and savory. According to Jessica Ryan of CT Bites in her July 2020 article, “What Perez prepares isn’t just food; it is art. It is art in every sense of the word. Chef’s creations are as wonderful to the eye as they are to the nose as they are to the mouth. He pairs flavors and textures that few would imagine or dare. Don’t let this classically trained chef fool you, his flavors and combinations are anything but conventional. He is fresh and vibrant. The French Culinary Institute graduate has an inherent intuition and talent that simply can’t be taught.”
Chef Perez will be debuting a new Mexican spot just around the corner from @the Corner. The space is “more intimate,” says Perez with “modern high end fun cocktails, and the menu is mainly going to be aimed at the Spanish/Mexican side, but with our usual modern American twist.” “We will be sourcing locally using produce from the farms around Litchfield, cheese from Mystic Cheese and Cato’s Corner, but with more extravagant proteins like Kobe and lobster.”
PHILIP POLZELLA / EXECUTIVE CHEF
Vyne Restaurant & Bar
1365 Whittemore Rd
Chef Phil Pozella has been cooking for 40 years. Phil humbly began washing dishes and progressed through the ranks to sous chef and eventually claimed the title of Executive Chef at The Country Gate Restaurant. He then served as Executive Chef at the Torrington Country Club and the Food Service Director for Somerville, running nine buildings.
In 1994, Chef Phil ventured into the culinary world with Junipers in Southbury, followed by Junipers in Middlebury in 2007. In 2019, Phil embraced the role of Executive Chef at Vyne.
Phil’s culinary journey includes cooking for numerous celebrities. He is a passionate traveler with a deep-rooted connection to Italy and Spain, specializing in Mediterranean influences.
His small gentleman’s farm in Litchfield is home to cows, rabbits, chickens, sheep and loyal dogs. Baking and cooking run in his blood; his father was a baker and his mother, a remarkable cook.
Born in the Bronx, Phil proudly hails from Waterbury, Connecticut, but frequently visits Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.
Chef Phil specializes in seafood fra diavolo, game meats, and the art of butchering meat and fish. Phil is excited to cook at special events for our sister property at Tranquillity Vineyard & Winery.
CHRIS PROSPERI / CHEF – CO-OWNER
690 Hopmeadow St
Simsbury, CT 06070
If you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Metro Bis yet, you may know Chef Prosperi as a Hartford Courant recipe columnist, a weekly chef on NBC 30, television host of “New England Cuisine” and/or as weekly senior contributor on “The Faith Middleton Food Schmooze®” on WNPR. The New York Times declares “…Prosperi is a technical master, an original American chef whose restaurant is worth traveling for” and the Zagat Survey has ranked Metro Bis, located in the Joseph Ensign House in the heart of Simsbury, in the top five in the state for American food. Chef Prosperi embraces the local farm-to-table concept with enthusiasm and creativity, visiting local farms and naming them on the menu. You’re likely to find Asian influences on the menu as well as the tried-and-true. One reviewer wrote: “The Asian Tuna and sparkled with freshness and the combination was inspired.” “The Gorgonzola-crusted flat iron steak was glorious….”
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Chef Prosperi has culinary roots in Litchfield (West Street Grill) and New Milford (The Bistro). He and his wife, Courtney, opened Metro Bis 21 years ago. The accolades soon followed and continue to this day.