Side Dishes: Upscale chef joins Akes' Den
Since it opened in 2008, Stowe Mountain Golf Club’s the Cottage  has been serving risotto, charcuterie and other rustic European fare from chef Jamie Nelson. Now diners will have to venture south on Route 100 to taste the 22-year kitchen veteran’s creations. Last week, Nelson joined the staff at Ake’s Den  in Waitsfield. “I’m here to try a new adventure,” says the chef. “I wanted a less corporate environment. Up there [at the Cottage], I wasn’t able to cook as much as I like to. Now I’m more than an executive number cruncher.”
The Harwood Union High School grad is eager to return to his Mad River Valley roots. He began his career as sous-chef to uncle Michel Martinet at Trapp Family Lodge . Other experience in Stowe kitchens included seven years as assistant chef at now-defunct Bistro Mes Amis and three years as chef at Olive Bistro, now also closed.
Though Nelson will keep the popular Den Burger and maple-chipotle wings, he has remade most of predecessor Ryan Mayo’s menu. The new chef’s first order of business is introducing more local products, including a Vermont cheese plate. One creamy selection often on the rotating menu is Lake’s Edge goat cheese from Blue Ledge Farm, which Nelson calls one of his favorites. He’s serving it with homemade balsamic syrup.
Even before he switched to his new menu on June 25, Nelson says, his truffle fries with garlic and Parmesan were a breakout hit. Though the chef envisions the winter menu will include lots of hearty, old-world dishes such as beef Stroganoff and coq au vin, summer dishes are lighter and many showcase seafood. Tuna Niçoise, Caprese salad and a refreshing Tuscan roasted-garlic-and-white-bean dip are among the appetizers. More casual dinner offerings include fish tacos and Switchback-battered tilapia fish and chips. Nelson also brings his longtime specialty to Ake’s Den. His ginger-sweet-potato-crusted salmon will likely bring old fans from the Cottage and win over new ones. Each night, the chef also runs numerous specials, many of them on the higher end. Chocolate mousse, crème brûlée and White Russian cheesecake provide a sweet finish to a night at the (newly gourmet) bar.