Chad spent his boyhood knee-deep in the trout stream behind his house in Ellsworth, Michigan. The town of 400 was home to a cherry cannery and five miles from the shore of Lake Michigan on the northern tip of the state’s lower peninsula. Hidden in the beech and elm groves lining the many orchards and farms were some of the area’s claims to fame: elusive pockets of morel and chanterelle mushrooms pushing up through the leaf mold.
Life followed the seasons. After trout season in April and morels in May came strawberries in June. The cherries ripened in July, followed by raspberry picking in his parents’ garden. Chanterelles signaled passing summer’s midpoint and the promise of cooler days to come. The brisk snap of October evenings stirred the blood of white-tailed bucks, and family convened for a pre-dawn hunting breakfast at the opening of gun season. Safe ice was virtually guaranteed by December; ice shanties dotted the lakes, sheltering those who waited patiently for their tip-ups’ flags to tell of the walleye, muskie and trout below.
At age 12, Chad sacrificed his fishing time to wash dishes at the local restaurant. “Tapawingo,” wrote R. W. Apple of the New York Times, “may be the best restaurant anywhere in the country that’s a four-hour drive from the closest major city.” In the 80’s and 90’s Tapawingo was a pioneer in the farm-to-table movement, welcoming local growers of produce, herbs, and berries to their back door, cultivating patches of rhubarb in its own gardens. After working his way through the stations over the next eight years, Chad was ready to try his skills in a new environment.
In 1998 Chad left Michigan for Boston, joining Michael Schlow as part of the team that opened Radius. He stayed there for 2 ½ years, absorbing the French techniques and disciplines, and moved on to positions at Aquitaine Bis and The Catered Affair before returning to Radius as sous chef. At the Blue Hill Country Club and later at The Tournament Player’s Club Boston Chad took on executive chef roles, deepening his commitment to forming warm relationships with members and to making the food “your way, all the time.” In his off hours, Chad cultivates hellebores and is somewhat successfully teaching his 6- and 8-year-olds to fish.
Sharon grew up in Needham. Early food service experiences included volunteering at the coffee shop at the Glover Memorial Hospital where she learned how to make (and sneak) coffee frappes in the back as often as possible. She left Massachusetts for the University of Michigan and soon learned that frappes don’t exist in the Midwest, a place where milk shakes have ice cream and soda comes in “pop” cans.
In 1996 Sharon caught a ride with a boy named Sue and found herself picking rhubarb for cobbler and foraging for mushrooms with a boy named Chad in no time flat. She tried fishing, but decided that impaling worms made her squeamish. When Boston drew her back, Sharon found work baking at anago at the Lenox Hotel, Tea Tray in the Sky, and Grill 23 & Bar.
There was no more rhubarb to pick, so she planted a garden, and finds that she occasionally impales worms—by accident.