By Julia Donnini
The brand new sign that’s cropped up along Falls Road will entice visitors to duck in to Chef Contos’ new kitchen store. And if you duck in, well, you know the drill. Your hands don’t leave empty and your next meal swiftly becomes a fantasy.
Chef Courtney Contos’ shop is a wonderland. The seasoned chef stocks gourmet ketchups – Sir Kensington’s! – and handcrafted chocolate out of Brooklyn. She received the call from Mast Brothers Chocolate while setting up, “They called and then it was silent. Finally, the guy said simply, ‘You’ve been approved,’” Contos recalled. There’s a reason gourmands trust her.
Contos’ resume is a laundry list of culinary qualifications. In addition to cutting her teeth at her family’s successful Chicago restaurant, Chez Paul, Contos studied restaurant management at Kendall College. From there, she trained at “the culinary military,” Charlie Trotters, as Contos described, “The ingredients they used were just divine. I became fascinated with the high-end culinary world.”
Since then, she has taught nation-wide cooking classes and even taste-tested for the Martha Stewart publication, “Every Day Food.” After moving to Vermont, she worked for the Inn at Essex Resort & Spa as executive chef instructor for over three years. “It had been a lifelong dream to move here,” Contos said. Other open arms appeared from the studios at WCAX Channel 3. She has contributed a monthly cooking segment for seven years.
Her most recent business venture is behind the quaint façade, a space Contos says she’d been eyeing for some time. After Staple & Fancy closed their doors, one opened for her. In comparison, her vision is much broader. Contos teaches cooking and gardening classes in the back. She’ll also host private events, from date nights to birthdays to bachelorette parties. “I stress to people that I’m not serving food here. I’m selling education,” Contos said. Last week’s vegetable gardening course also encouraged a seed swap.
Her innovative but logical offerings are a certain success. While a “hands-on shopping experience,” as Contos likes to call it, might seem like something shifty, it’s likely to be the key to her success. She keeps vegetables on hand for trying kitchen supplies out before taking them home. “Everything I sell, I have in the kitchen. You can’t buy knives [for example] by staring at a box,” Contos explained.
It’s truly a candy store for the culinary inclined. Contos scouts quality as well as one-of-a-kind hostess gifts—everything from Dark and Stormy-flavored chapstick to Shiitake mushroom pens.
If it seems like the new shop has a bow on it, it practically does. While its doors opened April 2, Lt. Governor Phil Scott will assist at the official ribbon cutting on April 22 at 11 am. In appropriate fashion, Scott and Contos will collaborate in making his winning French toast recipe for guests to sample. Then on April 27, Contos will host her Grand Opening Celebration with a cooking demonstration and sale with Jim Cunningham on hand for knife-sharpening services.
Join the crowd and explore the newest Shelburne haunt, Chef Contos, at her many events this month. Also visit www.chefcontos.com for upcoming classes. Store hours span Tuesdays-Saturdays 10 am-5 pm and Sundays 10 am-1 pm.