Collin Donnelly, executive chef at The Red Hen in Lexington, has won Cooking Light‘s Small Town Chef Award 2012. The award is part of the magazine’s “Trailblazing Chef Awards.”
“To be a success, a small town chef with big-city cooking chops needs to walk the tightwire of trend and tradition, to find a way into the hearts of locals—who may be on the conservative side—with a deft combination of the familiar and the deliciously inventive,” wrote Tim Cebula in the magazine piece. “Donnelly walks that line with tremendous skill.”
Cebula pointed out Donnelly’s charcuterie skills (he serves house-cured meats and homemade sausages), his ability to prepare great dishes using all parts of the animal (“snout-to-tail” cooking) and his use of fresh, local ingredients. Examples of fine dishes mentioned in the article are Donnelly’s tomato and peach gazpacho with lavender and biscuit croutons and his lemon verbena–compressed watermelon with Chesapeake crab.
Donnelly, 37, is married to Amanda Bertschi, who works as the pastry chef and sommelier at The Red Hen. Both Donnelly and Bertschi are graduates of the New England Culinary Institute.
According to a press release from The Red Hen, “Each year, Cooking Light writers and researchers scour the country looking for culinary leaders in six categories, says Senior Food Editor Tim Cebula, including Culinary Preservation, Produce Innovation, and Healthy Cooking. ‘The process takes about five months,’ Cebula says. ‘We conduct extensive field research with the help of food critics and other experts around the country and vet restaurants by dining at them to determine the winners of each category.’”
Here’s a story I wrote about Donnelly’s preparation of a Burns Night Supper early this year. Congratulations, Collin.