Executive Chef Josephine (“Jo”) Proul has become the new owner of Local 111, which reopened on Friday, April 25. The 28-year-old chef is making waves in the Hudson Valley and in the culinary world as a young chef/owner and as a female chef in a predominantly male industry. Proul has been executive chef at Local 111 for the past 6 years. Her sidekick and sous chef, Michele Pelkey, has been with her more than 5 years – together they make a formidable team.
When asked if she plans to make changes on the menu, Proul explains that she has slimmed down the menu, but will keep her New American cuisine with customers’ favorites like her homemade pasta and bolognaise sauce. The restaurant will continue to serve the rich bounty provided by the wealth of local farms in the Hudson Valley. Angello’s Distributing (owned by her uncle) provides her with fresh local, biodynamic and organic produce. Her pork comes from Cool Whisper Farm in Hillsdale, beef and eggs from Pigasso Farms in Copake and cheeses from local artisans. She procures the freshest fish from Boston’s wharfs – this week it was deliciously prepared red snapper with mussels, millet and shaved cabbage slaw.
Proul says she wants her diners to “choose their own destiny.” There will be fun snacks and classic, but casual course selections. Nightly specials will include one each of appetizer, entrée, salad and dessert. Every item that can be made in-house is homemade, from pastas and breads (with the exception of hard rolls) to ice cream and sorbet. The reasonably-priced menu will change every four weeks featuring the freshest seasonal ingredients as Proul is a staunch supporter of the farm-to-table movement and all the local artisans and farmers.
Her liquor license only allows her to serve beer, wine and 24% alcohol due to her proximity to the church across the street. A full liquor license requires a restaurant to be at least 500 feet from a church or school. She has creatively resolved this issue by making martinis, cosmopolitans and tasty cocktails with Soju, a Korean vodka-like liquor.
In taking ownership, Chef Proul said she felt tremendous relief and happy that she was able to hold on to the jobs for her staff. Gone are the pressures of pleasing the former owners. Being on her own gives her more flexibility in making her own decisions and carving her own path on this culinary venture. She comments that she is pleased to have retained her strong team, many who have been with her for 5 years, with only two new servers coming on board. Her newly appointed floor manager, Jess Cropper-Alt, was formerly a longtime lead server.
Chef Proul, who grew up in northern California and started working in restaurants at age 14, is a graduate in Culinary Arts from The New England Culinary Institute. She learned classic French charcuterie and traditional French pastry-making at Le Pichet in Seattle and moved on to a restaurant group in Long Island before making the fortuitous move to the Hudson Valley and Philmont. She considers Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse fame, to have been her greatest influence both as a woman chef in the industry and as the nationally acclaimed founder of the food revolution.
With Waters, Americans saw the emergence of support for local farmers, ranchers and fisheries, eating locally – long before farm-to-table movement became fashionable – and educating our communities and children. Chef Josephine Proul is all about doing the same for her community in the Hudson Valley. As a young chef, Jo Proul is beginning to make her mark on the culinary scene. Recently, she participated as one of six chefs cooking at The James Beard House and she is receiving recognition in two new books to be published this year: Hudson Valley Chef’s Table by Julia Sexton and Organic: Farmers and Chefs of the Hudson Valley by Francesco Mastalia.
And what does this chef do in her sparse spare time? Fitness training at 5 a.m. (she’s lost 70 pounds) and foraging in her secret woods or farm – today it is for those pungent scallion-like spring onions, ramps.
Local 111 is located at 111 Main Street in the Village of Philmont at the geographic center of Columbia County, a rural area that is blessed with some of the best farms in the Hudson Valley. The Main Dining Room seats 40; 19 in The North Room and 20 on the patio. Local 111 is open for dinner Wed.-Thur. from 5:30-9 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. 5:30-9:30 p.m.; Sunday brunch from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and dinner from 5-9 p.m. For further information or reservations, visit Local 111 or call 518.672.7801.
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