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9 March 2012

Interview: Lance Richard of The Snow Angel Tavern

We all know and appreciate that Vermonters are a special breed. Honorable, persistent and rare to back down from a challenge. While the rest of the country whines about “the new economy”, Vermonters are doubling down on doing what they do best…living, pure and simple. Sure, Irene left her mark but Vermont stepped up to the challenges. Again and again and again.

The Snow Angel Tavern, owner/chef Lance Richard and his team are perfect examples for the rest of us. Difficult economic times are not, there’s work to be done. Ya can’t keep a good Vermonter down, right? And this is exactly why KYR was compelled to interview Lance.

Chef Lance Richard :: The Snow Angel Tavern :: Mendon, VT

Mark @ KYR :: Lance, before we get into The Snow Angel Tavern, why don’t you share a bit about yourself? What led up to the moment just before bringing TSAT to life?
Owner/Chef Lance Richard :: I’m a native Vermonter, born in Morrisville, though I grew up near cape Cod from the age of ten. I started apprenticing in restaurants at the age of 15, and continued my apprenticeship after moving back to VT at the age of 18. I cooked in Stowe and Burlington for 6 years until I got a job as chef de cuisine at Black Eyed Susan’s on the island of Nantucket in 2002. I continued to cook in Stowe during the winter for the next 2 years, but finally stayed year round in Nantucket in 2004. I then got an Executive Chef job at Kitty Murtagh’s after six seasons at BES, and met my partner, Viktoriya Angelova, who also worked at Kitty’s. We began discussing our own business last spring (2011).

M @ KYR :: So why now? Why Central Vermont?
Chef Lance :: Well, I’ve been an aspiring chef for 18 years and owning my own place was my dream. Being from Vermont, and knowing how expensive it is to own in Nantucket, I started exploring restaurants in VT 2 years ago, visiting locations in Stowe and Burlington. I looked at Hemingway’s and also Peavine’s in Stockbridge, and finally the former Piper’s Pub here in Mendon. Viktoriya and I fell in love with the building’s potential, and after negotiating a deal that worked for us, we signed the lease in early October 2011.

M @KYR :: I love the name and the logo. It’s not often Angel and Tavern fit so well together. {Smile} Tell us why you picked the name? How does it represent TSAT?
Chef Lance :: When I imagine a restaurant concept, I first look at the building itself- is it a diner, a bistro, a pub, etc. Then I factor in the market need in the area, and formulate a name that goes with the concept and style. I knew the trend of Vermont ski areas, having been groomed in Stowe, and I wanted the name to be indicative of winter, yet be warm and inviting. I thought the building would be a perfect roadside tavern, but I wanted my experience and love for quality food to set us apart from the average bar and grille. After bouncing a few names off Viki, I blurted out, “The Snow Angel Tavern”, and we both knew we had a winner. What I love is that to make a snow angel after a storm, is a pure expression of joy. To just lay down, forget about all your worries, and make something beautiful from something so cold. We just love the name.

The Snow Angel Tavern
(802) 772-7163

6105 US Rt 4, Mendon VT

Website :: TheSnowAngelTavern.com
Facebook :: Facebook.com/pages/The-Snow-Angel-Tavern.

M @ KYR :: One of my visits was on a Tuesday, $5.00 burger night. The weather was wet and unpleasant. The roads hardly ideal. Yet you had a really nice crowd. Impressive. What’s your secret to getting off to such a great start?
Chef Lance :: We had 2 months to get the building ready-it hadn’t been opened for years, so we had a lot to do. When we weren’t painting or cleaning or going over numbers, we would try and reach out to other local business owners and promote ourselves in the neighborhood. We handed out hundreds of flyers in Rutland, Mendon, and Killington, so I think the anticipation helped us. However, I think the real secret was something we planned for from the beginning-great food! A chef-owned restaurant is something amazing, and all the award winning restaurants in the world are such, after all, at the end of the day you’re selling food, so who better to run the place than the person who understands food best. We work really hard to make everything ourselves. I even turned the walk-in freezer into dry storage, because we have no need for such freezer space-everything is fresh!

M @ KYR :: Of course all the food is delicious. But as the man with the plan in the kitchen, what are the signature TSAT dishes? In other words, if it were my last meal what should I order? {Smile}
Chef Lance :: I think we’ve been most recognized for our hand cut fries, our fresh seafood, and our homemade desserts like Peach Berry Crisp and Chocolate Mousse. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite, if I didn’t love them all they wouldn’t be on the menu! But if I had to recommend a last meal I’d say try the Pork Schnitzel with lemon caper sauce- its a house favorite.

M @ KYR :: Spring and summer will be here before we know it. What’s next? What should we be looking for from TSAT?
Chef Lance :: I wouldn’t expect us to close for long, but I anticipate a lull in the spring-good time for a vacation!

M @ KYR :: Well, certainly even successful entrepreneurs deserve a holiday. Until then, is there anything we didn’t cover that you want to mention before we wrap this up?
Chef Lance :: I want people to understand that this is a family run restaurant, myself in the kitchen, Viki in the dining room, and her brother Georgi behind the bar. And when you come here, you’re part of our family.

M @ KYR :: Okay, now is your chance to send out some love…
Chef Lance :: I want to send some love to my partners, Viki and Georgi. Without their support we never would have made this happen. I often get all the credit, but they work with as much passion as I do. I was also lucky enough to bring my sous chef up from Nantucket, and our 7 years experience cooking together has made the kitchen what it is. Thanks Guys!! We’d also like to send love to Manjuri and Jigger from the Cortina Inn, Steve and Robin from Killington Motel, and Martin from Budget Ski Rental. They’ve been very supportive and sent us many customers!

Thanks Lance – for the interview, and more importantly for the great food and welcoming us into your family

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