When Farmstead Grill opens at the Shops at Canton Crossing, the new restaurant will have a familiar chef at its helm — Galen Sampson.
Sampson, who closed his Hampden restaurant The Dogwood last March, spent part of the intervening year in Virginia, where he took part in an apprenticeship program at Bellair Farm, an 853-acre historic farm outside of Charlottesville. "We were farmhands," Galen, 50, said about the apprentice corps, most of whom were considerably younger than he. "We were crawling, driving tractors, weeding, digging dirt."
"It's been a long year and a short year," Sampson said. "[The program] was one of the most significant things I've done in my life."
Sampson said his time at Bellair was transformative both mentally and physically.
"I dropped 30 pounds immediately," he said. "I got in really good shape. The first month was a bit hard. I thought I worked hard when was a chef.
Sampson said he learned lessons on the farm that will be invaluable to him as a chef.
"The whole experience on the farm is helping me develop relationships." Sampson said that farmers, faced with constant risk, are looking for consistent buyers and will grow specialty and heirloom crops if a restaurant can offer a long-term commitment.
Sampson said he considered staying in Virginia but the offer to run Farmstead Grill was "a pretty miraculous opportunity to come home." Sampson started coming back part-time in August and has been back full-time since September, preparing the menu for the new restaurant, which Sampson said, could be open as soon as May 1, with the opening of its companion kiosk, Farmstead Shack, to follow soon after.
For more information, go to farmsteadgrill.com.