So, what are you having for dinner, Chad Lumbra? —Bistro Midva
Chef/owner Chad Lumbra at Bistro Midva turns out some terrific food in a jewel box of a place, but what has impressed me most is his sense of gratitude: his darting from the stove to say a personal thank you to diners at the tables, his wave from a hectic kitchen and another “thank you” to guests as they leave, his posts on Facebook expressing how appreciative he is, of all of it. When asked about it, he expressed how thankful he is for each and every diner at Midva, and further responded:
“One of the things that I said in the very beginning and have stayed passionate about throughout this adventure is that not every chef that wants a restaurant gets one, so I really try every day to work hard and be mindful so as not to take it all for granted.”
Bistro Midva is his restaurant in Windsor, Vermont, housed in a big-windowed building that reminds him of Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks.” It’s a long way from his stint in the kitchen of Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park in New York City. Eleven Madison Park served over 300 dinners every night, while “[O]n a very busy night at Midva we can do 40 people.” And there’s this observation about the change in role from chef to chef/owner:
“When I worked as a cook/chef in the back of the house I didn’t think about guest experience as much as you might think. Most of what occupied space in my head was the dishes, the coolers and the food, ordering, and famous lines from classic comedy movies (that’s a big part of working in kitchens). Owning a restaurant has brought me to a whole different way of thinking, I still think about all the things a chef has to think about, but I’m also constantly thinking about all the things that can make up a guests perspective from when they walk through our door till time they leave.”
In addition to the regular menu, Midva has hosted some special evenings, like Burger Night. Next up? Chad says perhaps “ . . . the next one we would really be passionate about doing would be a Slovenian/Balkan day and serve things like cevapcici sausages, lepinje bread, kranjska klobasa, prazen krompir potatoes, and kremsnita cake.”
What would he choose from Midva’s menu to have for his own dinner? While Chad tastes everything he is cooking, he admits that he and his wife Arlanda (photo, top) have had few occasions to sit down for a meal at Midva. But his vote? “I have taken a great liking to our polenta dish on this fall menu, it’s a very simple creamy polenta with EVOO, pecorino Romano, and roasted veggies. What makes it special is the cornmeal we use from Nitty Gritty Grains in Charlotte VT.” Chad found the polenta at a food show and said far from being what is sometimes just low-flavor texture on a plate “ . . . the cornmeal did not disappoint the next morning when I got into the restaurant and cooked some up. After all, food should generally taste like what it is.”
This is another in a series of interviews with local restaurant folks in which Daybreak’s Rob Gurwitt and I try to learn and report on what items on their own menus they particularly fancy.
(For an earlier review of Bistro Midva, click here. Photo, top, by Ben Wardrop, courtesy of Chad Lumbra)
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And in case you are wondering . . . Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.