In the library of Glenmere Mansion on a sunny, Sunday morning, I sat down with the chef to talk travel, food, farms, and New York City. On assignment for Luxury Travel Magazine, I was looking forward not only to the fireplaces and country quiet of this 18-room Relais and Chateaux property in Chester, New York, but also sitting down for a meal in the sophisticated Supper Room.
“Part of being a chef is sharing my love of food beyond the plates. Diners shouldn’t be afraid to communicate more, to ask for recipes or tips. If there’s a dish someone really enjoyed, I’m more than happy to share some cooking strategies with them. If you’re curious about something, you should ask. Guests shouldn’t be afraid to speak up.”
This refreshing attitude fits right in at Glenmere, a luxurious mansion that beneath its beauty is an unpretentious and welcoming atmosphere. Stella is in charge of the hotel’s two restaurants — the Supper Room and the more casual Frog’s End Tavern — operating under one kitchen.
Located in the lower Hudson Valley, Glenmere is surrounded by fresh ingredients. “Farmers actually drop off produce right to the door,” Stella said. “It’s a chef’s dream.” Fall and winter menus feature local ingredients ranging from squash to apples to swiss chard to quince to mustard greens.
When he isn’t in the kitchen, Stella’s life is still immersed in food. We both share a love of the Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City’s East Village, and a look of pure pleasure swept over his face when describing the dishes in Eleven Madison Park. We discussed living abroad, and food being at the core of memorable travel experiences. He described street food in Mexico City, communal ovens in Marrakesh where locals go to bake their own bread.
Just the mention of bread brought me back to the night before and three warm bites of a cheddar chive biscuit that started my meal at the Supper Room. Menus at Glenmere Mansion are not only about innovation and presentation, but first and foremost about taste. A delicate agnolotti of pumpkin with crispy pancetta, swiss chard, and sage brown butter showed Stella’s restraint to not allow the flavors of the dish to become muddled. This characteristic seemed reminiscent of the simplicity of Italian cooking, and fit right in with the restored Tuscan villa that is Glenmere.
On my second night, I dined at the second, more casual restaurant, the Frog’s End Tavern. Prior to taking a seat by the crackling fireplace, I asked the chef what dish he would order if he sat down in the tavern. Without a moment’s hesitation he replied, “the roasted chicken. Creamy mashed potatoes. Swiss chard. Such a perfect, comforting dish.”
That’s what I ate, slowly, savoring every morsel, that night at the Frog’s End Tavern.
Read my full coverage of Glenmere Mansion from Luxury Travel Magazine here.