A Chef's Journey to the Adirondacks

Born in Detroit, Chef Derek Leinonen had a long journey to the Adirondacks. Like so many of us, he was magnetized by the rolling hills and mountains that he now calls home.

A portrait of the chef standing in his dining room

I met Chef Leinonen while seeking reprieve from the looming early winter weather. Heading into Seymour’s Restaurant in Ticonderoga –– aptly named after the original architect of the golf course it sits on –– I was greeted by a warm wood interior and friendly faces. I’ve never felt more at home in an upscale restaurant.

Speaking to Chef, I could tell that comfort was deliberate. After a fire in the original clubhouse several years ago, he and the Ticonderoga Golf Course Board Member’s worked together to build Seymour’s from the ground up. The culmination of years of experience and inspiration in the culinary arts, Chef’s menu this season represents the best of an Adirondack winter.

Our winter vistas are a far cry from the sunny streets of Florida or Texas where Leinonen began his career. He was excited to share the things he'd learned along the way: all about fish in Florida, how to make a true Texan chili, and plating dishes artistically. Yet the lessons he often returned to were those from his family. 

Leinonen remembers watching his parents cook. His mother stayed strictly to her recipe for consistency while his father went by taste and feel. Throughout our conversation, he reiterated that, in his mind, food is what brings people together. Speaking to him, I could feel his passion for cooking, but more importantly, I could sense his pride in providing a unifying experience for his customers and his community.

Mushroom Rigatoni on an upscale dining room table

The menu at Seymour’s reflects the comforts of a winter in the mountains. Even as the cold wind howled through the hills, a warm, full meal inspired by local agriculture and family recipes put me at ease. Upon my arrival, the Chef's team whipped up a mushroom rigatoni, and it blew me away. It was the type of meal you’d expect from a world class chef, presented beautifully, and it still filled me with the satisfaction of home cooked dinner. 

Chef Leinonen has developed a style of cooking that melds perfectly with the Adirondack landscape. It matches the desire for high quality farm to table experiences, with the creature comforts we need to get through the chilly winter. It was reminiscent of a rolling fire on a snowy day, filling me with warm satisfaction. It pairs as well with vegetables from the local farm stand as it might with an exotic ingredient imported from a far off land. Between the pasta and the white chocolate lava cake for dessert, I felt content to sit and watch the clouds roll through the mountains from the big picture windows.

Stormy mountains out the picture windows at the back of the dining room

In a time of year where so much slows down, Seymour’s is just getting going. This winter, the team aims to create a space for people to feel at home even when they're finally able to get out of the house. By doing so, they hope to open the door for more businesses in the region, so that a community of restaurants and shops can stay open throughout the season.

The night I visited, Seymour’s hosted a holiday movie screening for local families with cookie decorating, food, and drinks for the whole family. Chef Leinonen also alluded to more big plans for the future, but I guess you'll have to wait and see.

So pay a visit this winter. Sit by the fire, and take in the snowcaps as you enjoy a meal inspired by friends, family, and the mountains out the window. And don't forget to thank the chef, he's done a lot to get here.

Visit the Seymour’s website for their winter hours, upcoming special events, and reservations!

 

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