Meet Executive Chef Shawn Calley of Amuse, the main restaurant at The Essex Resort & Spa in Burlington, Vermont. Before he won over the hearts and appetites of Vermonters, Shawn studied interpersonal communications as an undergraduate in Michigan. Two years in, he made a bold career move to attend culinary school in Pittsburgh, and, as he says, “Haven’t looked back since.” With a passion for flavor and farm-to-table cooking, Shawn strives to bring innovation to every dish. Here, he gives Rue La La an inside look at the limitless opportunities in the life of a head chef, his thoughts on cooking locally, and the trick to the perfect risotto.
Rue La La: What do you consider your specialty?
Chef Shawn Calley: I love heavy classic French with a modern twist. Taking an old dish and rediscovering the flavors in a new way.
RLL: Is Amuse a French restaurant?
CSC: I wouldn’t call it a French restaurant, but it’s based on classic French style. I like pushing the edge, getting people to try new things. I’m passionate about the local movement. We use as many local proteins as possible. We make all of the sausage and charcuterie in-house.
RLL: Do you work with farmers directly?
CSC: Yes, I deal with about 20 different farmers. For instance, our maple syrup, beef, and the majority of our vegetables are from local Vermont farms. Unfortunately, having cold climates, we can’t be 100% local.