Bits and Bites: Popolo hires new chef

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New chef

There's a new king of the kitchen at Popolo, a community-owned Bellows Falls' restaurant that specializes in farm-to-table cuisine. Chef Tim Cocheo has joined the Popolo team.

"I grew up watching my grandparents cultivate their gardens," said Cocheo, in a press release. "My grandfather used to make his own wine."

Cocheo, 38, is of Italian and Croatian ancestry. He grew up on Long Island and learned from his family the pleasure of sharing food with others. He studied history and art in college and then graduated from the French Culinary Institute, now the globally acclaimed International Culinary Center of New York.

After culinary school, he worked at some of Manhattan's finest restaurants — La Caravelle, The Mark, and Wallse. Cocheo and his wife, Taryn, whom he met while at college, had their first child and decided to head out of the city to further his career, starting as sous chef at The Wheatleigh in Lenox, Mass. Inspired by the experience and by the beauty of the Hudson valley, the young family relocated across the New York border, first to Ancram, where they started the Bottle Tree, and then to Millerton, where, with his wife, Cocheo built Number 9 Restaurant. With his growing family — he and his wife now have four children — Mr. Cocheo has arrived to join the Popolo team.

Founding chef John-Michael Maciejewski has moved on to other pursuits, but he and co-creators Gary Smith and Kristen Fehrenbach remain directors of the restaurant.

"I enjoy finding out what's happening at the area farmers markets, shopping as locally as I can, and getting inspiration for dishes from the products of area growers," said Cocheo.

He believes Popolo's regulars will embrace the next menu as he rediscovers his Italian roots.

"Good food is universal. Creating a coherent vibe works the same way everywhere. My tastes are cultivated but simple, like my grandparents' cooking, but I try to make it exciting for both the regulars and newcomers. That's what makes a restaurant great."

A community restaurant in every sense of the word, Popolo is the creation of more than 25 stakeholders. Encouraged by a great year in 2015, there is talk of revitalizing the Windham Hotel, according to the press release, in which Popolo is a ground floor tenant. For more information, visit www.popolomeanspeople.com.

What a deal

Vermont Restaurant Week is in full swing through Sunday. You still have plenty of time to stop at one of your favorite local restaurants — or eat out multiple times, there's no judging here! — and enjoy a multi-course meal, priced at $20, $30 or $40 per person.

It is highly suggested you call ahead and make a reservation, letting the host or hostess know you are coming for restaurant week. When you arrive, ask for the "Restaurant Week" menu. Some places offer lunch, brunch or breakfast specials.

In southern Vermont, you have nine restaurants to choose from, including duo Restaurant, Peter Havens, Popolo, Blue Moose Bistro Italian Restaurant, Superfresh! Organic Café, The Tavern Restaurant, Fireworks Restaurant, Hazel and Whetstone Station Restaurant & Brewery.

For more information, and to view the special menus being offered, visit www.vermontrestaurantweek.com.


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