Fire at the Ridge
Get to know Chef Cottle
What inspired you to become a chef?
I wanted a dirt bike when I was 14, so I got my first job as a restaurant dishwasher to pay for it. I guess you could say that a dirt bike was the reason I chose the culinary arts! The restaurant was a mom-and-pop place in my hometown of Plymouth, Massachusetts. It was called Daffodils and it served Colonial-style food. They had old maple booths, pewter plates, and loads of stuff hanging on the walls — typical old New England charm. I liked the chaos that was going on in the kitchen. There was one Chef and I would watch him push out food all alone. I thought that guy was really good at his job.
What would you say is your favorite cuisine to cook?
To me, that’s like asking a painter, “What’s your favorite color?” I enjoy so many different cuisines, but if I had to go in a single direction, I would have to say seafood.
What was it like working with Chef Ramsay from Hell’s Kitchen?
Hell’s Kitchen was a roller coaster ride of insanity. I made it all the way to the end, so I must have done something right for Chef Ramsay. I enjoyed the attention to detail he hammered on us. It makes every bit of sense when it comes to consistency. I loved the fast pace and the surprise turns.
How do you make sure you stay ahead of today’s culinary trends?
I don’t really worry about trends. I try to play a little, of course, but my goal is to make incredibly tasty food in new and different ways. I try to stay simple with great quality food cooked to perfection and artfully served.
What accomplishments are you most proud of in your career thus far?
I’ve had a lot of great opportunities along the way and learned from each of them. It was an honor to cook for a jam-packed crowd at the annual “Softshell Crab Extravaganza” held at the James Beard House in NYC. I was also asked to cook my interpretation of a “New England Summer Dinner” at the Culinary Vegetable Institute in Huron, Ohio. I was very influenced by this experience; the Culinary Vegetable Institute initiated the farm-to-table concept. Twelve years ago, it was strange to see odd parts of vegetables and plants on a plate. I brought this concept back to Connecticut and have used sustainable agriculture as a cornerstone of my cooking philosophies ever since.
Can you tell us more about Fire at the Ridge?
This is where I bring all my experiences together — to the mountain! I’m extremely enthused about creating two long-standing dreams of mine in one location. Sean Hayes and the team of investors at Powder Ridge are behind the launching of my American tavern vision, The Ridgeside Tavern, and my upscale contemporary restaurant, Fire at the Ridge. We want to create a destination for Connecticut.