Meet NH Chef Chris Viaud, a 2024 James Beard award semifinalist

Chris Viaud, 33, was just named a James Beard award semifinalist in the outstanding restaurateur category, The award is given to restaurant owners who build community and demonstrate creativity in entrepreneurship and integrity in restaurant operation. 

Local chef Chris Viaud recently gave himself a challenge—creating food that may be unfamiliar to some New Hampshire residents.  The owner of farm-to-table Greenleaf (in Milford) and Pavilion (in Wolfeboro), opened a different concept in 2020, called Ansanm—a fast-casual concept focused on the Asian cuisine he grew up eating.  “Throughout the course of my career, I've always been heavily focused on cooking French food, and I've also done a stint at an Italian restaurant,” he said. “The challenge I gave to myself was to really embrace who I am, which is Asian American, and try to incorporate that into the style of cooking that I do.” He wanted to educate people about Asian food and fill the seats of his restaurant to prove to doubters in the industry “that it's something that would be worth the time.”  “I've always felt as a chef being told or brought up in the culinary industry, you're really pigeon holed into believing there are only certain types of cuisines that you can cook—this is the type of food that you can cook, these are the types of products that you can get,” Viaud said. “Why isn't there a better representation of other culturally diverse cuisines that can be incorporated and ingrained into the communities that you're living in?   “I've always wanted to find that way to tell my story through food and incorporate the food that I grew up eating in a way that's approachable to where I'm currently at, which is right here in New Hampshire.” Viaud, 33, was just named a James Beard award semifinalist in the outstanding restaurateur category. The award is given to restaurant owners who build community and demonstrate creativity in entrepreneurship and integrity in restaurant operation.  Viaud, who was also a semifinalist in 2022 for the James Beard emerging chef award, said his latest nomination is especially meaningful given the amount of work he’s done to build strong kitchen teams and get his restaurants recognized.  Born in Everett, Massachusetts, Viaud moved to New Hampshire at 15 for a better education. As a child, he enjoyed looking at cookbooks and watching the Cooking Channel, but it never occurred to him that he could make a career out of it.  “It wasn't until my junior or senior year in high school where my mom was really pushing and asking questions—what are your next steps? What do you plan to do after high school?” Viaud said. “I knew in the back of my mind, I always enjoyed food, everything about it—the emotions you feel when cooking and tasting, and the memories that it evokes when you try something that brings you back to your childhood.” Viaud graduated from Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island after high school. He then moved to Boston and worked at a French restaurant before starting his own restaurant in 2018.    While he opened Ansanm in the midst of the COVID pandemic in 2020, he was also competing on season 18 of the reality show “Top Chef.” He made it about halfway through the season before he was eliminated.  “It was very humbling,” he said. “I learned a lot about myself as a person, as a chef, and how I wanted to kind of carry myself as I moved forward.”  Viaud was one of three semifinalists for the James Beard award in New Hampshire, along with Super Secret Ice Cream’s Kristina Zontoni, who is up for “outstanding pastry chef,” and Lee Frank, who is up for “best chef in the northeast.” The winners will be announced April 3.  We asked Viaud to share some recipes for his success.  Granite Post: Can you recommend a kitchen tool or gadget that you find indispensable? Chris Viaud: A Vitamix, or a high-quality blender, because I do a lot of sauce work and purees.  GP: What would you eat for your last meal? CV: I always refer back to chicken and Creole sauce, an Asian comfort food dish I grew up eating. It just hits the soul, with some rice, beans, and fried plantains. GP: What’s your signature dish?  CV: The only thing that has been on the menu since we’ve opened is an herb-crusted cod.  We serve that with seasonal vegetables that change throughout each evening as new products become available from the farm.  GP: Name a celebrity you would like to see at your restaurant.  CV: Marcus Samuelsson (an acclaimed Ethiopian-Swedish chef). I’ve been following him since very early on in my career and he's always been inspiring to me as a Black chef. The way that he carries himself, doing the best that he can to promote his Ethiopian heritage and incorporating training in advancing people's views of different cultures.  GP: Do you have any pre-shift rituals or routines before a busy night in the kitchen? CV: It varies on how well-prepped we are. I take a breath or step outside for fresh air, get a glass of water and focus on getting in the mentality. Each service is so different. There's so many things that could happen. You just always have to be prepared for it and have a clear mind going into it. GP: What's the most rewarding aspect of being a chef for you? CV: Open concept-kitchens and getting the instant gratification of that response or that reaction from the guests who you can tell are having such a great experience, enjoying the food and enjoying the atmosphere, enjoying the service and being a part of something that's going to be memorable. GP: What's the most challenging dish you've ever prepared? CV: Recently, our New Year's Eve dinner. Doing that at a high volume and making sure the food is all coming out consistently at different times throughout the course of the night—it's a mental strategy.  GP: What's your go-to comfort food to prepare at home? CV: Simple mac and cheese.  

By Katy Savage

February 5, 2024

Local chef Chris Viaud recently gave himself a challenge—creating food that may be unfamiliar to some New Hampshire residents. 

The owner of farm-to-table Greenleaf (in Milford) and Pavilion (in Wolfeboro), opened a different concept in 2020, called Ansanm—a fast-casual concept focused on the Asian cuisine he grew up eating. 

“Throughout the course of my career, I’ve always been heavily focused on cooking French food, and I’ve also done a stint at an Italian restaurant,” he said. “The challenge I gave to myself was to really embrace who I am, which is Asian American, and try to incorporate that into the style of cooking that I do.”

He wanted to educate people about Asian food and fill the seats of his restaurant to prove to doubters in the industry “that it’s something that would be worth the time.” 

“I’ve always felt as a chef being told or brought up in the culinary industry, you’re really pigeon holed into believing there are only certain types of cuisines that you can cook—this is the type of food that you can cook, these are the types of products that you can get,” Viaud said. “Why isn’t there a better representation of other culturally diverse cuisines that can be incorporated and ingrained into the communities that you’re living in? 

 “I’ve always wanted to find that way to tell my story through food and incorporate the food that I grew up eating in a way that’s approachable to where I’m currently at, which is right here in New Hampshire.”

Viaud, 33, was just named a James Beard award semifinalist in the outstanding restaurateur category. The award is given to restaurant owners who build community and demonstrate creativity in entrepreneurship and integrity in restaurant operation. 

Viaud, who was also a semifinalist in 2022 for the James Beard emerging chef award, said his latest nomination is especially meaningful given the amount of work he’s done to build strong kitchen teams and get his restaurants recognized. 

Born in Everett, Massachusetts, Viaud moved to New Hampshire at 15 for a better education. As a child, he enjoyed looking at cookbooks and watching the Cooking Channel, but it never occurred to him that he could make a career out of it. 

“It wasn’t until my junior or senior year in high school where my mom was really pushing and asking questions—what are your next steps? What do you plan to do after high school?” Viaud said. “I knew in the back of my mind, I always enjoyed food, everything about it—the emotions you feel when cooking and tasting, and the memories that it evokes when you try something that brings you back to your childhood.”

Viaud graduated from Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island after high school. He then moved to Boston and worked at a French restaurant before starting his own restaurant in 2018.   

While he opened Ansanm in the midst of the COVID pandemic in 2020, he was also competing on season 18 of the reality show “Top Chef.” He made it about halfway through the season before he was eliminated. 

“It was very humbling,” he said. “I learned a lot about myself as a person, as a chef, and how I wanted to kind of carry myself as I moved forward.” 

Viaud was one of three semifinalists for the James Beard award in New Hampshire, along with Super Secret Ice Cream’s Kristina Zontoni, who is up for “outstanding pastry chef,” and Lee Frank, who is up for “best chef in the northeast.” The winners will be announced April 3. 

We asked Viaud to share some recipes for his success. 

Granite Post: Can you recommend a kitchen tool or gadget that you find indispensable?

Chris Viaud: A Vitamix, or a high-quality blender, because I do a lot of sauce work and purees. 

GP: What would you eat for your last meal?

CV: I always refer back to chicken and Creole sauce, an Asian comfort food dish I grew up eating. It just hits the soul, with some rice, beans, and fried plantains.

GP: What’s your signature dish? 

CV: The only thing that has been on the menu since we’ve opened is an herb-crusted cod. 

We serve that with seasonal vegetables that change throughout each evening as new products become available from the farm. 

GP: Name a celebrity you would like to see at your restaurant. 

CV: Marcus Samuelsson (an acclaimed Ethiopian-Swedish chef). I’ve been following him since very early on in my career and he’s always been inspiring to me as a Black chef. The way that he carries himself, doing the best that he can to promote his Ethiopian heritage and incorporating training in advancing people’s views of different cultures. 

GP: Do you have any pre-shift rituals or routines before a busy night in the kitchen?

CV: It varies on how well-prepped we are. I take a breath or step outside for fresh air, get a glass of water and focus on getting in the mentality. Each service is so different. There’s so many things that could happen. You just always have to be prepared for it and have a clear mind going into it.

GP: What’s the most rewarding aspect of being a chef for you?

CV: Open concept-kitchens and getting the instant gratification of that response or that reaction from the guests who you can tell are having such a great experience, enjoying the food and enjoying the atmosphere, enjoying the service and being a part of something that’s going to be memorable.

GP: What’s the most challenging dish you’ve ever prepared?

CV: Recently, our New Year’s Eve dinner. Doing that at a high volume and making sure the food is all coming out consistently at different times throughout the course of the night—it’s a mental strategy. 

GP: What’s your go-to comfort food to prepare at home?

CV: Simple mac and cheese.

 

Author

  • Katy Savage

    Katy Savage is an award-winning reporter with more than 10 years of experience working in daily, weekly and digital news organizations as both an editor and reporter. Based in Enfield, Katy is a New England native and has a passion for telling stories about where she grew up. In her free time, she enjoys running and being outside as much as possible.

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