CONCORD, N.H. — Before he became an award-winning chef and restaurant owner, Evan Hennessey just needed a job.
He had come home to Dover from the University of Kentucky and found a job at a local fish fry joint as a dishwasher and prep cook. He took it, and climbed up the ladder at several restaurants before he decided he wanted cooking to be his career, not just a job. He went to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu, which had a location in Dover at the time (it has since closed).
“I enjoy challenges,” he said. And running and ultimately owning a restaurant definitely qualifies.
Now, Hennessey is the owner and head chef at Stages at One Washington and The Living Room in Dover. And he’s tackling another challenge: reducing food waste by working with local farmers to order and grow only as much food as the restaurant can actually serve its patrons.
“In a lot of ways, it’s a very old world way of doing things. You get your food from your neighbor,” he said. He came up with an arrangement to partner with farms, placing an order and making smaller regular payments toward the livestock he will eventually use in his dishes. That way the farmer has a regular income, and Hennessey can balance his restaurant budget.
Hennessey is also focused on training the next generation of chefs, through a new staging program he’s launching this year. The unpaid internship is a way aspiring chefs can gain exposure to new techniques and build their resumes and experiences in the culinary world. He said it’s the responsibility of more-seasoned chefs to bring new blood into the kitchen.
“We have to find them, we have to nurture them, and we have to help them,” he said.
He said there’s a big appetite for the kind of training program he’s offering. He’s still accepting applications, and he said so far he’s gotten applicants from all over New England and as far afield as Minnesota.
Participants will be responsible for creating three dishes that they’ll present to diners at the end of the five-day training. The way Stages is set up, people who come to eat are right in the kitchen, so there’s a lot of interaction between those making the food and those eating it.
“I want to give the younger generation of chefs an opportunity to come to a very welcoming and safe place to learn with us. Cook with us,” he said.
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