Lenox Innkeeper Collaborates On Cookbook For B&B Foodies
By Lisa Green
“It was like giving birth to an elephant,” says Ellen Gutman Chenaux about the process of collaborating and producing Eight Broads in the Kitchen, a cookbook inspired by the friendship and recipes of eight innkeepers from across the United States. Chenaux, who owns and runs the Birchwood Inn in Lenox (voted Best Breakfast in New England by Arrington’s Inn Traveler magazine), will be signing the book as well as offering tastings of one of her recipes at Guido’s in Pittsfield on Saturday, May 30.
It’s not hard to understand why this cookbook would have a long gestation. It started years ago as a friendship between the eight bed-and-breakfast owners, who met at innkeeping conferences and forums. Geographically distant (they hail from Hot Springs, Arkansas; Seattle; Chestertown, Maryland; Danville, Ohio; Ithaca, New York; and Gettsyburg and Lancaster, Pennsylvania), they were drawn together by their love of food. They formed a blog to feature their recipes.
“All of us share a passion for cooking and sharing information,” Chenaux says. “We’re all strong, independent, opinionated women who have different styles of cooking. We’ve developed a deep friendship — we’re like sisters.”
At first it was going to be just a food blog. But eventually the Eight Broads started giving cooking workshops and demos at innkeeping conferences and they’ve become regular contributors to Innkeeping Now magazine. The modest food blog has evolved into an incorporated business they attend to as carefully as they run their inns. The women meet twice a year for intense planning meetings attended by a facilitator and a public relations consultant. Being B&B professionals, the women don’t meet in just any old Holiday Inn. No, they’ve opted for a farmhouse in the south of France, California wine country, Santa Fe and, coming up, Key West.
A former magazine writer and editor, Chenaux has run the pristine-but-comfy Birchwood Inn for 16 years. Originally looking to buy an inn on the Jersey shore, she was visiting a friend in the Berkshires and was charmed when people saw her looking at a map and asked if she needed help. “I decided I wanted to live in a place where the people were like that,” she says.
And now her guests want to stay in a place where she makes breakfasts with menus that include, for instance, sunflower oatmeal bread, blueberry buckle, roasted bosc pears with pomegranate glaze and fondue Florentine soufflé. Her menu is always evolving; after all, she prepares more than 300 breakfasts and afternoon teas at the 249-year-old Birchwood Inn each year.
“Women choose a B&B for its romance, and they convince their husbands to go along with it because of the breakfasts,” Ellen says. The cookbook, with more than 150 recipes contributed by the Eight Broads, brings that romance home.
On Saturday, Chenaux will be signing the Eight Broads cookbook and sampling one of her favorite recipes, County Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler. “Rhubarb is the first happy sign of spring,” she says. “I’m just not sure how many to bake.”
Our advice? A lot.
Ellen Gutman Chenaux Tasting and Eight Broads in the Kitchen Signing
Saturday, May 30, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Guido’s in Pittsfield