THE RED LION INN

Brian Alberg is Executive Chef at The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, MA. INTERVIEW: “We’re an Inn that’s over 200 years old that serves innovative American cuisine. That means I’ve got people who come in that expect New England traditions, like pot pie or prime rib or roast turkey, and I’ve also got people who come in that expect line-caught Alaskan king salmon with local sweet pea puree. Being at The Red Lion Inn has given me the opportunity to become more involved in the community, it’s given me the opportunity to gain national recognition for myself and for the Inn. It’s taken my ideals, my cooking philosophy and backed it with a couple hundred years of history, which makes for a pretty strong package.”

“Finding myself early, I always had the ideals about farm-to-table and about using local things, and I think that came from working with a classical French chef. But, until I came to The Red Lion Inn, I never really had the support of an owner to pursue those ideals.”

“It’s important for the farmer to understand what the chef wants. And, what their philosophies are on food, what their needs are as far as ingredients. And, they’re just as eager to help in promoting the products they’re selling to me, as I am promoting the products that I’m buying from them. I mean it’s a huge list, there’s probably 15-20 local people that I buy from. In addition, my in-laws own Ronnybrook Dairy, which is in Duchess County, NY, so I have a strong dairy relationship with them. Daniel, Ronny and I all partake in raising heritage breed pigs for sale – mainly wholesale to restaurants.“

“Being a big farm-to-table person, and I believe in using the whole animal. I buy whole pigs, I buy whole steer, I buy whole lambs from Lila Berle. So, it kind of goes with my cooking philosophy – heritage breed, raised on the farm. I’m using local, fresh products in the season, and applying the techniques to it. So, it may be a local pheasant or a local quail from Chatham, NY, that I’m applying my coq-au-vin recipe to, which would be my classical French technique. So, I think that all chefs have their own cooking style.”

“My staff … my staff is great. They’re really engaged in what’s going on, they love the path we’re taking as far as farm-to-table goes, they get excited when whole pigs come in to break down. And, they’re all excited about learning. When I get a new sous chef, or when I feel like we’re kind of just running our course, I’ll do a James Beard dinner down in New York City, and get the staff really pumped up about that. They help me write the menus, they get to go down to the city and see what it’s like to cook in that type of environment, and it really keeps them interested in what’s going on.”

“You know, I had a tyrant French chef that took me under his wing for 2 years and taught me classical French cuisine. Before I went to the CIA, I already had 3 or 4 years experience under someone that really took the time to teach me. So, I kind of feel like that’s how I have to give back. I teach a culinary arts program, and I have assistance with a couple of other chefs in the area. But, I teach kids and at the end of each semester they host a gala dinner. (Group photo below courtesy Edward Acker.) The kids were so engaged and so pleased with their performance, it’s just really cool to watch them go out to the dining room and be proud of something. That’s what keeps me doing it. This is my 5th year teaching.”

INTERVIEW