Confirmed: CT Turgeon is in as the new executive chef at Haddingtons, replacing departing chef James Corwell. Last week Eater Austin reported the rumormongering and had an opportunity to talk with the new chef over the weekend.
CT Turgeon joined the kitchen at Haddingtons a month ago, as part of a planned transition, officially taking the reins from chef James (Jimmy) Corwell two weeks ago. Owner Michael Polombo explains, "Jimmy's tenure ultimately wrapped up in an even six months and was an amicable parting all around ... We'd been planning the transition for over a month prior. I'm very excited to have CT take the helm and I think he's pretty excited about it too."
Turgeon, a transplant from Vermont, has been cooking in Austin since January 2010. While his career here has been brief so far, with kitchen jobs at Foreign & Domestic, Shoreline, and Max's Wine Dive, he started in the kitchen 10 years ago up in the northeast at restaurants such as Kitchen Table Bistro, Bistro 156, Red Brick Tavern, and Smoke Jacks. Haddingtons will be his first post as executive chef, and he has already been putting in the long hours, learning all of the new responsibilities and effort it takes to be the head of the kitchen.
On James Corwell, his predecessor, Turgeon says that he learned more from him that most anyone else. "Everything on his plates had such flair and finesse. The man was a craftsman. I have so much respect for how he got it. How sophisticated his cuisine is... how he spent the time to do everything really, really well." Turgeon is sure that Corwell, a Certified Master Chef, will be moving on to a big gig at a Michelin-starred restaurant soon.
Turgeon's time has been spent settling in to this new role, building his team, focusing on the concept, ironing out logistics, and better adapting the menu to Haddingtons' audience. The new fall menu doesn't yet reflect his real influence, focusing instead on replacing spring and summer dishes with those of his favorite season. Turgeon says that the menu must be more seasonal, and that fall flavors "just fit" with how he sees Haddingtons. Half of the new dinner menu is his, but the new brunch menu entirely reflects Turgeon's culinary touch, already bringing in record numbers for the restaurant.
Some changes Turgeon is making at Haddingtons will reflect that attention to detail and the attention to the Haddingtons concept. He's working on re-inventing all areas of the menu, from the side dishes to even the bar nuts. He will be including more domestic ingredients, replacing such things as prosciutto with artisanal Tennessee ham. Beginning next week, the cheese program at Haddingtons will go all domestic, partnering with Antonelli's Cheese.
"People have four to five go-to restaurants for certain occasions. There is that bar. We need to be consistent to be on that list and to stay on there," Turgeon says. "I am not the best chef in Austin, but I do have the best kitchen staff in town."
He has kept all of the previous staff, but added Lucy Winters as pastry chef, previously the sous under Plinio Sandalio at Congress, to develop more of a pastry program. He has begun involving his team more in taking ownership of any successes and failures, sharing more information with them and expecting the same back.
Notably, his girlfriend Hannah Mary Marshall is rather infamous as the tutu-wearing, chicken-holding hostess of Congress who was named as Best Hostess of the Year by Esquire Magazine.
Turgeon ends by emphasizing, "I'm the happiest I've ever been in a kitchen." His smile and passion prove it.