After four years as dining-room manager and resident wine expert at Hen of the Wood at the Grist Mill, William McNeil will work his last night at the Waterbury restaurant on September 9. McNeil’s explanation for his departure leaves little doubt that the restaurant biz is one of the toughest around. He’s been cramming 80-hour workweeks into five days, he says.
McNeil’s new job is at beverage distributor g. housen, where he’ll be the fine-wine sales representative for the Burlington region. McNeil brings high-level credentials to the job. He’s a Culinary Institute of America-educated chef who worked as sous-chef at now-closed Christophe’s on the Green in Vergennes. Right now, McNeil is pursuing his certification as a master sommelier, which requires him to pass four two-day exams; he’s got three to go.
Another longtime Hen of the Wood employee, server Scott Hirschberg, leaves at the end of this week. Hirschberg plans to open a farm-to-table restaurant in his native Montclair, N.J.
Luckily, HOTW chef/owner Eric Warnstedt is in it for the long haul. His sister Christina Warnstedt will replace McNeil as front-of-house manager, while Eric takes on more of the wine buying himself, he says.
The chef will get a break from the daily grind when he cooks at the James Beard House in NYC on November 1 as part of an assembly of top chefs whose recipes are featured in a new book called Harvest to Heat: Cooking With America’s Best Chefs, Farmers, and Artisans. Warnstedt says he contributed two recipes to the book by Darryl Estrine and Kelly Kochendorfer, both featuring Jasper Hill Farm cheese. Fans can grab a copy starting October 18.