On December 13, 2023

Rosemary’s names new chef

Courtesy Eric Ley

Eric Ley smiles as the Dalai Lama blesses him in  Colorado. 

 

 

 

By Katy Savage

Cooking has taken Eric Ley all over the world.

Ley, a Rutland native, was a  personal chef for 10 years, traveling with families to private islands,  houseboats on Lake Powell in Utah, to major cities around the U.S. and on private planes.

Twelve years ago, Ley, 55, was serving caponata and lambchop with a pomegranate mint glaze to the Dalai Lama at Red Mountain in Aspen, Colorado.

Then, he was a private chef for actor Robert Downey, Jr., catering to each of Downey’s family members’ different dietary needs — one of his children was gluten free, one was vegetarian, Ley remembers.

“You have to be a culinary contortionist, sometimes you have to do culinary yoga,” Ley said.

Ley cooked for economist Alan Greenspan, who served as the 13th chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006. Ley was there when Greenspan discussed the advent of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac around a dining table.

“Alan Greenspan was sitting at the table talking to these people, saying what a great idea it was,” Ley remembers. “The conversation that was happening right in front of me was pretty wild.”

Serving meals to his clients gave Ley a unique perspective into the lives of people he served.

“I played a nurturing role,” he said. “It’s just interesting the way food touches people and then invokes memory and feeling. It’s not just a job. I’m here to feed people.”

Ley moved back home eight years ago to be close to his aging mom. He worked at The WhistlePig Pavilion in Stowe before becoming the chef at the Middlebury Inn. He’s now starting a new role as chef at Rosemary’s Restaurant in Killington — a role he started Nov. 13. “I grew up in the area, so this has always been part of my life,” he said.

Ley’s cooking roots started in Vermont. He grew up in an Italian household and remembers helping cook sauce and meatballs as a 9-year-old child.

“I often hovered around the kitchen to see what was going on,” he said. “I’d do whatever.”

He soon started making his own meals. If he stayed home sick from school, his mom knew he was better when he started experimenting in the kitchen.

“My mother would be like, so  you’re going to school tomorrow,” Ley said.

Ley attended the culinary program at Stafford Technical Center while in high school. “It’s what came to me,” Ley said. “I was at a loss when I was talking to my guidance counselor. I didn’t know what career path I wanted. I was checking the vocational culinary program and after a conversation with him, he said ‘it sounds like’ you’re right for that.’ Forty years later, I’m still loving it.”

Ley is hands on with his food — preparing meals like a floral arrangement (another favorite hobby of his). He cuts vegetables to make them aesthetically pleasing.

“It’s art more than it is a meal,” he said. “It’s just filling my interests, my soul.”

Ley plans to serve elevated comfort food, including “clean straightforward flavors and approachable food at fair price” at Rosemary’s.

For Ley, it feels like he’s coming home. He grew up hiking the Long Trail and Deer’s Leap. He remembers stopping at Rosemary’s on his way through to grab a stew and a Guinness.

“It was always a thing,” he said. “It’s my life. It’s been my life,” he said. “I can’t expect that it’s going to be that for everybody. But I want (people I work with) to feel my enthusiasm. I want them to be as excited about the dishes as I am.”

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