Stories / Interviews, Interviews

Ask a Chef: New Hampshire Native Brett Cavanna

Hilary Deutsch

Hilary Deutsch

February 09, 2016


After coming up the ranks at FIG and Café Boulud, chef Brett Cavanna returned to his native New Hampshire to helm the kitchen at Louie’s, where he offers up comforting, handcrafted pastas and rustic Italian fare. For his upcoming Beard House dinner, Cavanna will serve a delicious, stick-to-your-ribs winter feast—the perfect antidote to mid-February doldrums. In anticipation of his comfort-fare fête, we spoke to the chef about his love affair with agnolotti, his Beard House menu inspiration, and why chicken tenders are still great at any age.


What is your inspiration behind the menu for this Beard House event?

Our inspiration is to showcase the things we believe we do best at the restaurant: sourcing the best possible ingredients in our area, not fussing with them too much, seasoning properly, and maintaining our high standard of execution. Keeping it rustic and traditional.

What's a dish on your Beard House event menu that you're especially excited about or proud of, and why? 

We're looking forward to all of our offerings because we put together a menu that we've never done before. We're excited to roll it out for the first time at the Beard House. But I'm really happy with our agnolotti because we take a lot of pride in how beautifully shaped they are.

What’s your guilty-pleasure food?

It's gotta be chicken tenders with hot sauce, for sure. They're still good, no matter what age you are. (And especially if you've had a few drinks.)

Who's been your biggest inspiration, and what dish would you cook to thank them?

I've had many people who have inspired me. Zach Bell at Café Boulud Palm Beach was my first real mentor. He basically taught me how to cook and turned me into the technique-driven cook I try to be today. Jason Stanhope at FIG Charleston taught me how to be a great cook and manager at the same time. I learned how to slow down and think more about my decisions throughout the day. Stanhope and Mike Lata also made me fall in love with a simple, pure style of food and flavor. 

What's your favorite place to eat these days? 

The Black Birch in Kittery, Maine. Their style of food is exactly how I want to eat. They're closed on my day off though, which is a total bummer!

View all upcoming Beard House events and book your seat at



Hilary Deutsch is editorial assistant at the James Beard Foundation. Find her on Instagram.