Q&A With Hanover Inn’s Chef Justin Dain About PINE Restaurant’s New Dinner SeriesJun 25, 2019 11:55AM ● By Kevin
We caught up with Dain to chat about his background, the inspiration behind this month’s dinner series, and lots of other fun topics in this exclusive Q&A.
Here in Hanover Magazine: Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your background? What got you interested in the culinary arts?
Justin Dain: I was born and raised in Waterbury. I got my calling when I was a bus boy in Stowe and a cook called in sick, so I was asked to help out in the kitchen. Instantly after my first day helping out the line cooks, I was hooked and had the Kitchen ‘bug.’ There is nothing better than the buzz of a busy kitchen with the team working toward the same goal.
I went to The Culinary Institute of America for my associate’s degree and to The New England Culinary Institute for my B.A. in food and beverage management. I worked at The Boston Harbor Hotel right out of culinary school and was lucky enough to work with Chef Daniel Bruce. Working with him was such an amazing experience as he pushed me to be better every day. He is a great friend and mentor.
After my experience at The Boston Harbor Hotel, I accepted my first executive chef position at The Reluctant Panther in Manchester, Vt. This was such a great learning time for me, personally, because I was challenged to develop my own dishes and techniques with local food. Also, this was an opportunity to learn hands-on about running a restaurant and working daily to produce food that was highly accepted by the demographic in Southern Vermont and surrounding areas.
HIHM: What inspired this particular dinner series in the Birch Room? Tell us how it came about and give us some more details on what to expect.
Dain: In the culinary industry, it is imperative to always be creative and push ourselves to new levels with our food, teams, and culture. I wanted to bring something unique to the Upper Valley that hasn’t been done before. I want to create something special and memorable for our guests who would like to experience a side of culinary ideas that have not been yet been done at The Hanover Inn and PINE Restaurant.
The concept is to create food that focuses on simplicity, thoughtfulness, execution, and the use of local ingredients with constant care and technique. The dinner series will vary on concepts from season to season and consist of 12-15 guests and 6-8 courses each dinner.
HIHM: Aside from this endeavor, what other things can guests/diners expect when visiting the Hanover Inn?
Dain: We are always looking for new events and projects to pursue at the Inn, whether it be a wine dinner or collaboration dinner with a chef in the industry. We want to always create new experiences for our guests and give them something fun and memorable at each dining event.
HIHM: Since starting at the Hanover Inn, what have you learned and how have you adapted? What new things have you tried over your time there that have worked?
Dain: Since becoming the executive chef at The Hanover Inn and PINE restaurant, I have learned how passionate the community is about supporting local farms. Using local ingredients—whether it be produce from Crossroads Farm or whole pigs for our charcuterie program with Heritage Farms—we love the passionate people behind the scenes that make the best products available. It has been fun to work with the farmers on how best to use their products in both PINE and our Banquet department.
One exciting thing that we have done previously that proved successful was our raw bar program, which included new seafood items rotating with the seasons. We have been very lucky to have earned the trust of our guests as they branch out and try new things on the menus.
HIHM: What are your plans for the future? Are there things you'd like to develop and enhance? Are there more dinner series ideas that you'll implement soon?
Green: The future is bright for PINE and The Hanover Inn! We are always looking for ways to improve and build off a successful concept and ideas. We constantly look for ways to improve our products and push the boundaries to create delicious, simple, thoughtful food for our guests. With a great team, we always collaborate with each other and push each other to keep the creative ideas flowing.
HIHM: What makes your job at the Hanover Inn special to you?
Dain: The Hanover Inn and community has been a home to myself and my family since the fall of 2010. It has been such a welcoming experience that keeps me excited and passionate to come to work every day. The team we have built over the years is so enthusiastic, forward-thinking, and determined to be better every day, and that is what this is all about! The team and how we all get enjoyment from what we are creating on a daily basis is what keeps me going at the end of the day.
HIHM: Is there anything you'd like to say to the community at large?
Dain: I look forward to welcoming you to this new dinner series, and as always, please come and visit us in PINE! We always love seeing the community enjoying the restaurant and the experience we are constantly striving to create.