Carole Peck has been serving great food to the Northwest Corner for almost 23 years. She has been at the forefront of the farm-to- table movement before it even existed.
Carole Peck has always been ahead of the trends. She is not a cookie-cutter person. As she got more and more into cooking, she found the simpler the food, the better. “I eat in my head, I can figure it out.” Her style is fresh and natural, with influences from French, Asian, and Italian cuisines. She doesn’t follow what’s going on in the restaurant world, for example she doesn’t cook with a lot of ground pepper. In the 1990s she was serving quinoa, farro, spelt, lentils, and freekeh – all are popular now.
Some of the most popular dishes at the restaurant are the Lobster Mac ‘n’ Cheese (which she invented 20 years ago) the Wok Seared Shrimp, Onion Bundles, Short Ribs, and the Catch of the Day, served with a horseradish crust, on a bed of beets and spinach and served with matchstick fries. For lunch, her Crispy Chicken Livers are a big hit.
The lunch and dinner specials always include vegetarian and gluten-free meals. For dessert, there are cookies, chocolates, and cakes. They take orders on cakes as well. Take-in or take-out, it’s all delicious. The social bar features their famous cocktails and martinis and has a cool vibe.
“All career chefs are nomadic,” says Carole Peck as she points out the many places she has lived and worked over the years: Texas, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Cape Cod, and more.
How did she end up in Litchfield County? She knew the Mayflower Inn, she was familiar with Washington and knew the food was good there. She was at a place in her career where she wanted to be her own chef and being a woman was not easy in the culinary world. She also wanted to be closer to her suppliers out in the country. She was living in Cornwall, Connecticut and opened her restaurant in New Milford in the summer of ’88. After a few years, in ’93, she moved the business to its current location in Woodbury. She now lives in an old cider mill in Woodbury.
Carole Peck grew up in Newburgh, New York and discovered an amazing art department at the local high school. There were six potters wheels there. “I fell in love with throwing pots and with sculpture.” She particularly enjoyed making casseroles and bowls for cooking. This led to a job as a short order cook at Howard Johnson’s. She was accepted at a university for pottery but her parents wouldn’t let her go. The guidance counselor knew that she liked working in the restaurant business and got her into the CIA. For the first six months she didn’t like it, but then it clicked.
When Carole attended the Culinary Institute of America in 1971, it was based in New Haven, as part of Yale. Then it moved to Poughkeepsie. She was part of the first graduating class of women – 28 women to 1,000 men. She became a chef at the private Hunt Club in Pawling, New York. She went on to the Fisher Island Club in Miami as the executive chef for food and beverage.
Her clientele today covers folks from New York, Hartford, Westchester, and Rhode Island – a large radius. And if course, the locals of Litchfield County. “People who enjoy real food,” says Carole.
If you like to eat her food, you can learn to cook it too. Carole has been running her Culinary Tours in Provence for years. She does 4 tours a year, and there are two coming up in October this year. From trips to open air farmer’s markets to private tastings, demos by local star chefs, cooking classes for all levels, and even antiquing.
Her thoughts on the future of the Good News Cafe are to keep the momentum going. After 23 years, she still is thrilled that every day there is someone telling her what a great meal they had at her restaurant.
While enjoying the good food, customers can also see the many art exhibitions held every two months on the walls of the restaurant and the pottery as well.
Carole does catering but only for parties of 40 people or more.
“The fish has arrived.” And now it is time to bid farewell to the chef, but we don’t leave yet, as we await our takeout order of that famous Lobster Mac ‘n’ Cheese.