Chef of the year award resides at the Panther

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MANCHESTER — After a couple of years on the job making locally produced foods the foundation of her menu, Sigal Rocklin, chef at The Reluctant Panther Inn and Restaurant, was named 2018 Chef of the Year by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce at the 35th Annual Vermont Tourism Summit on April 11 at the Equinox.

Fresh vegetables and meats from local farms "make better quality food, result in less waste, helps local farmers and boosts the local economy," Rocklin told the Journal during a recent interview in the dining room of her restaurant in Manchester. "We offer fresh, seasonal food that highlights local ingredients used in the dish. We try not to complicate things and at the same time showcase the best of Vermont."

Rocklin is a native of Israel who located to Vermont 13 years ago and earned an associates degree from the New England Culinary Institute.

According to a statement from the Vermont Chamber, the Chef of the Year Award "recognizes an individual with a proven history of supporting Vermont's agricultural economy through the use of local food and products. Sigal has a passion for local food which is evident in the strong farm-to-table kitchen that she has created through her close relationships with the local farmers and producers. Creating inspiring seasonal menus using local ingredients, creativity and encouraging her team to be moved by the Vermont seasons is her specialty. She has grace and a calm manner consistently engaging all those who work with her."

Marissa McCallum, general manager of the Reluctant Panther, noted that Rocklin is a modest, soft spoken woman, the opposite of the stereotypical fire-breathing chef.

"She's really very humble," she said.

Rocklin said being a chef is her dream job.

"I like that I don't have to sit in an office," she said. "And every day is different. I get to play with food and express my values through what I do — working with the local farming community."

Rocklin came to the Reluctant Panther in 2016 from her previous posting as a sous chef at the Equinox.

She noted that the Chef of the Year Award is a peer-nominated process. Winning the award, she added, aside from the honor she felt, helps to further validate her efforts to source her ingredients from local farms.

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