SoVT’s Favorite Chef

SoVT’s Favorite Chef.

Chef Amy is a local sweetheart. She grew up and went to school in Manchester, then studied at the New England Culinary Institute in Essex. She’s a snowboarder, entrepreneur, music lover, and mom. Almost twenty years ago, she opened up one of the region’s staple restaurants, The Perfect Wife. It goes without saying, until you’ve had had a meal and a drink, and heard a band at her place, you haven’t experienced the best of Manchester.

The Perfect Wife in Manchester VT

photo courtesy The Perfect Wife & Celia Kelly Photography

As an up and coming chef, Chamberlain logged time in some pretty awesome kitchens. “I lived in Aspen for a few years and loved that scene… restaurants, coffee houses, live music in little hideaway bars, and really good eclectic food. After Aspen, I did a little stint as a private chef on a yacht. One day, at sea, I got a call from my stepdad. He’d bought this great little building at auction and wanted me to come home and look at it. Was this the restaurant?” Amy tells us she’d been back to Vermont once or twice, scouting locations, looking to open her own place. While she’d been leaning more toward Mad River Valley, she came home to see this “little building” and BOOM. It was right.

Becoming the Perfect Wife.

“When I first opened, the whole house was fine-dining. I thought the bar downstairs, with its comfy chairs and piano, would be the cool, upscale place to hang out. But my customers wanted to hang out up here!” She gestured to the street-level tavern where we met to talk. “So I changed the format and created a casual menu up. Preserved the fine dining down. Up has a live music scene, and down is just elegant.” It works.

Fine Dining Menu

Kind of a purist.

This is a chef who’s passionate about supremely good local ingredients and delicious restyling of heritage recipes. “I love classical French dishes. I love all the dishes that are emblematic of a particular place or culture.” Her turkey schnitzel’s been on the menu since she opened. “It’s my twist on an iconic German dish…and the Sesame Crusted Tuna, my take on Japanese.” Kind of a purist, she wants to get it right. You won’t find a side of Cuban Beans and Rice with a Mexican entrée here, but you will find flavors that bring you back to your roots with a spirit of adventure.

Farm to Table.

Notably, Amy was one of the first restaurant partners with Vermont Fresh Network which is an organization that connects farmers, food producers and chefs to encourage regional connection and build strong local communities. “They started the year I opened, I think, and it just made sense to me; to support local farmers and food producers, and to feed my customers well.”

kitchen garden

photo courtesy The Perfect Wife

Amy’s commitment to local, super fresh food goes all the way back to her Momma’s garden. Growing up, she put in her bean pickin’ time. As a chef, her roots are in the ground and her customers are happier for it.

photo courtesy The Perfect Wife

photo courtesy The Perfect Wife

There’s music, too.

The upstairs tavern at the Wife is Manchester’s #1 place to see live music, offering an assortment of acts most every weekend; from funk to blues, jazz to jam bands. If you’re lucky, you might even catch chef for a quick song or two. Once, when she lived in Aspen, she shared the stage with Mr. Lyle Lovett. “He was a regular at the Howling Wolf and decided to play a private show to about 50 of his favorite locals. He knew that I was in a band at the time and called me and Randolph Turner, another local singer, to come up and perform with him. We made up words as we went and had a ball!”

pouringbeer

photo courtesy The Perfect Wife

Why MVT?

“There’s tremendous loyalty here. When I lived in Aspen, it was a transient community. I made great friends, some I keep in touch with. But here in Manchester, everyone feels like a local. I truly believe the local loyalty that exists is one of the reason’s I’ve been so successful in my business.” 20 years successful, in fact. “I’m so, so grateful for that.”

Chef Amy Chamberlain

photo courtesy The Perfect Wife

We asked Amy why Manchester is such a unique destination. “Accessibility, maybe. Authenticity for sure. Shopkeepers are in their stores, chefs are in their kitchens. Artists are in their studios and you can talk with them when you’re shopping for a piece. The experience is authentic and also very personal. Like here at the Wife, you know who’s cooking your food.” 

Check out the Restaurant

Located on Depot Street in Manchester VT, The Perfect Wife is a cornerstone of Southern Vermont’s culinary landscape. Find a photo gallery here, connect with Chef Amy via social, and grab a map with directions so you can plan your visit!

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