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Side Dishes: Michael's on the podium

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Who's the best Vermont chef? According to the Vermont Hospitality Council, which absorbed the assets of the Vermont Lodging and Restaurant Association a year and a half ago, it's currently Chef Michael Kloeti of Michael's on the Hill in Waterbury. Chef Kloeti will receive his award from Governor Douglas at a gala event at the Basin Harbor Club on September 19. Another featured food award: "restaurateur of the year." That one went to Deidre Heekin and Caleb Barber of Pane e Salute in Woodstock.

This is the first year the Hospitality Council, the biggest division of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, has bestowed an award on a chef, explains VP Vicky Tebbetts (yep, she's Anson's wife). One of the biggest perks? The winner gets to attend the New England Food Service and Lodging Expo in Boston. "He'll be able to cook in a commercial demonstration kitchen," Tebbetts relates, "which is a really big deal for chefs."

What does Kloeti have to say about the honor? "It should be the crew of the year," he opines. "Right now, most of my menu is local. To do that, you need help . . . it takes lots of work, but I sleep better at night." Why the local focus? "I'm a very strong believer that if I make the money here, I want to keep it here," says Kloeti. His other reason: Vermont's "great quality food."

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