Hoene displays his true flavors

With more than 30 years of cooking under his belt, noted chef David Hoene has entertained his customers for decades with his succulent braised meats and noteworthy creativity.During a slow Friday afternoon, Hoene discusses with The Vermont Cynic his journey to becoming a chef, comfort foods, the value of experience and Paul Newman’s penchant for chicken cordon bleu.  Where did you grow up? What was the food culture like there?David Hoene: I grew up in Idaho. During the ’70s and ’80s, Idaho’s food culture came predominately from the Basque culture. Basque cooking is based on fresh vegetables, fish and shellfish and comes from sheepherders.So, as a kid, I did a lot of hunting and fishing. I grew up cooking wild food and using fresh ingredients from the gardens, etc.Did you go to culinary school?DH: No, I actually didn’t go to culinary school. I just sort of learned to cook as a kid and then moved from restaurant to restaurant, picking up skills as I went.When I was growing up it was hard to find good, trained chefs to work with and the food culture in United States was in its primitive state — it was just beginning, so there weren’t a lot of prerequisites in becoming a chef.Do you think that highly manufactured skills take away from the chef’s personality?I think that at times it is better to have highly skilled people preparing foods. They know of better ways to judge quality, prepare certain foods, etc.But I have seen a lot of culinary graduates in the kitchen that don’t have the drive or the passion to be a chef.Eventually those people will filter out of the system. But, I feel it’s more positive to have highly trained and skilled chefs.What was your first job?Oh god, I don’t even remember.I guess it was cooking at some hamburger joint in Idaho.     I moved from restaurant to restaurant . . . basically was doing prep stuff, working on the line, etc.Back in the ’70s and ’80s sometimes a really good restaurant would have an open call where they would hire a bunch of people. There would be two people competing for one position.So you would go into the kitchen and work for a week with another person vying for the same spot. It was very competitive.Do you have a favorite book about cooking?I read a lot, but my favorite recipe book is “The Making of a Cook” by Madeleine Kamman.She’s a Vermont cooking writer.Do you have a favorite food to work with?Well, part of my reputation has to do with the salmon I make. People come to Pauline’s for the salmon and the game that I cook.I love cooking game. I do a lot of braised foods for customers here and they really like them.Do you have a comfort food?I don’t know. Well I guess, for me, comfort food is like crackers and cheese.Have you ever made a dish for anyone famous?Well when I was just starting out I used to cook for Paul Newman at a resort outside of a racetrack. He used to eat chicken cordon bleu.