New chef for the Granite
Corey Fletcher brings his own style to Concord cuisine
By Linda A. Thompson-Odum firstname.lastname@example.org
The Granite Restaurant and Bar in the Centennial Hotel in Concord gained a reputation for high quality and creative cuisine under Chef Matt Lee. Now new chef Corey Fletcher, who took over in early February when Lee decided to move closer to family in Williamsburg, Va., plans to continue that standard while adding his own personal style to the menu.
Fletcher graduated from the culinary programs at Southern New Hampshire University and New Hampshire College. He’s worked in a number of restaurants in the New England region, and is best known in this area for his time at 55 Degrees in Concord and Colby Hill Inn in Henniker. The Hippo asked the chef about his culinary style and what he has planned for the Granite.
When did you know you first wanted to be a chef?
I just kind of fell into it. I enjoyed cooking growing up. I cooked Christmas cookies and stuff with my mom. Helped out with dinner and cooked stuff on the grill. When it was time for me to get a job I started working as a dishwasher. I got sucked in by this huge culinary vacuum. I just kind of fell into it at that point. I liked the camaraderie, the passion and the energy of the kitchen, especially on busy nights when all systems are working and smooth. It’s fun. It has to be. I wouldn’t work these long hours if it wasn’t fun.
What kind of hours do you usually work?
Last week I worked 60. I know people in this industry who work far more, and people who work less. It’s rewarding in its own sense. It helps the week go by fast. Besides, it’s not like I’m cooking for 12 hours straight. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that happens. My day is really broken up into office stuff in the middle of the day, and then the nighttime crew starts getting there and I start working on the specials with them and going over any reservations and functions. It’s really broken down into three parts.
People are familiar with you from 55 Degrees and Colby Hill. What are some of the differences [between] what you did at those other two places and what you do here at the Granite?
It’s going to be almost full circle for me. There’s a different clientele at the inn — people who traveled a little bit more. Plus the menu had to be created in such a way [as] to allow locals to still have some comfort food and some familiarity with the dishes. So I couldn’t do crazy stuff. Here I’m probably going to do things similar to 55 Degrees. Obviously Matt did a great job creating the basis for the menu here, and I want to keep that so it doesn’t detour people who are used to coming here. But I’ve got a good group of guys who are going to allow me to be more creative. At 55 Degrees I was often limited by the staff because it was me and only one other person in the kitchen. Here I’m going to be doing the same number of covers [meals] with almost twice the amount of staff. So I can put a lot more detail into the food and make sure the guys cooking are doing the exact same thing.
How much of the menu is going to stay the same, and how much are you going to change?
Eventually I want to create the menu to my style. Matt’s ideas aren’t too far off. I haven’t done too much in the Latin, Caribbean, Pacific Rim stuff — doesn’t mean I don’t like it. But I’m going to try to make it more regional and more seasonal.
What is your style?
I’d say New American Regional Seasonal. Taking classic standard dishes and making them 10 times better. An example would be a chowder I did at the inn. The inspiration was clam chowder, but I did a house-smoked haddock chowder. New England fish for a New England dish, but the ingredients were prepared a little different to create a different style of chowder.
Do you have dishes you consider your specialty?
I’ve always enjoyed cooking scallops and duck. From 55 Degrees, people have known me for cooking duck. I’ve always done the same spice rub — cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, salt and pepper. I had a waitress once, she remembered it as a pumpkin pie spice with salt and pepper. Originally I put it on a fall menu, so that’s why those warmer fall spices are in there, but it’s such a good blend that it doesn’t really taste like fall, so those flavors can really go with anything. I cook it in a hot pan so it renders out the skin and it gets nice and crispy and dark.
Anything else that you want people to know about you?
I’m just really excited to be here. It’s a great opportunity. And I look forward to seeing a bunch of regulars from 55 Degrees. It’s good to be back in Concord.