Until recently, Jeff Egan had his head in the clouds as the head chef at the Cliff House Restaurant, which is perched on the slope of Mount Mansfield and accessible by gondola. Now he's falling to Earth as the new executive chef for Vermont Discovery Cruises. Egan will put his talents to use in a tiny kitchen on the company's yacht, the Moonlight Lady, which set sail on its first luxury tour of Lake Champlain last weekend.
VDC spokesperson Marie Lathey is enthusiastic about the partnership: "We put an ad out there and we got a huge response," she says. "Of course, when I saw Jeff's resume, I recognized his name instantly. We got together and found that the combination of what we're doing and what he's been doing for a long time melds perfectly.
"We recognized from the very beginning that food would be the highlight of our cruises . . . and would make our cruise extra-special," Lathey explains. Part of the deal is that no two groups will ever eat the same dishes. Chef Egan will tailor each menu to the participants' likes, dislikes and allergies. "That's part of the fun of it," says Egan. "I can look at guests' needs and try to be flexible, and it won't get boring for me." Another thing that will keep him interested is defining "localvore" on the lake. "We're really going to strive to focus on contemporary New England cuisine . . . from this watershed and the surrounding ones. I'm educating myself about New York products and Québecois foods," he says.
Occupying his own cabin on the boat, Egan will prepare three meals a day. He's also considered a crew member, and has been trained in water safety. "It's a very different lifestyle," he admits. "It's a fun, intense way to spend the summer and fall."
At the Cliff House, Egan's former sous-chef, Matthew Reeve, has been promoted to head chef. "I would simply say that having Matt as my sous chef for the last year put me in a position where I was comfortable leaving the Cliff House," Egan says. "He and [manager] Brian Clark work really well together. It gave me the freedom to move on knowing that my coworkers and customers would be well taken care of."