WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Through one of his many culinary-driven treks, chef Justin Barrett fused the old classic savory pie of the United Kingdom with his own modern take. In late summer, Barrett, 33, will introduce his concept with the opening of his first restaurant, Piecemeal Pies, in downtown White River Junction.
Barrett’s pie menu will include a selection of both vegetarian and meat pies. His pies begin with a traditional hot-water pie crust which is then rolled out and delicately moulded over local ingredients such as curried vegetables, beef shoulder with red wine and rosemary, pork and parsnips, rabbit and bacon, and smoked trout.
“The pies will be hearty, reflecting the long cultural standing as being associated with an old-traditional workman’s lunch,” Barrett said.
Barrett has resided in Vermont for five years, exploring local farms while furthering his education in growing practices and raising livestock. His concept for Piecemeal Pies is a reflection of his culinary endeavors over the past decade, and the blueprint of his menu grew out of his passion for sustainable food practices.
“The ingredients will change frequently depending on what we have access to through our small-farm suppliers. I am focused on all local ingredients — I honor all ingredients’ time and place,” Barrett said.
The menu will also include soups, salads, desserts and a small selection of both local and imported hard ciders, along with house wines.
“I carefully handpicked the local ciders from small producers that will be offered on tap; the bottled British ciders I will be offering are ones I fell in love with on the trip that evoked the concept of Piecemeal Pies,” Barrett said.
The Piecemeal Pies space is approximately 1,400 square feet, and will offer counter service, a large 14-person communal table, as well as additional seating along the window of the old J.J. Newberry department store on South Main Street.
“I designed the space to engage the street,” Barrett said. “The casual seating that lines the window facing the street is held up with sections from vintage lamp posts; I want people to enjoy the scenery outside, but also for those passing by — they can view those inside enjoying a pie.”
He added, “The layout for Piecemeal Pies has an open concept. The space is divided equally between kitchen and dining room. There will be no walls between the customers and the kitchen, ‘to diminish boundaries.’”
That feeling of community is key to his business model.
“Great food to me is a combination of a lot of different ingredients: those who grow, cook and eat together. We will all enjoy the space together in a common space,” Barrett said.
Prior to becoming a chef, Barrett studied architecture at the University of Oregon School of Architecture. Soon after receiving his bachelor’s degree, it became clear that his passion for culinary arts would be the architect of his career path.
“I believe my concept will be something that people will recognize,” Barrett said of his business. “I fell in love with the meat pie, during a trip to England and Ireland, where I explored farms that have restaurants attached to them with a chef I was working with at the time, Annemarie Ahearn, owner of Saltwater Farm in Lincolnville, Maine,” Barrett said.
Barrett described the meat pie as being simple yet complex in taste.
“In London, the meat pie is as ubiquitous as a sandwich. They are classic — they can be something unique, yet they are also approachable and comforting,” Barrett said.
Comfort is a new direction for Barrett after what he calls his “gastronomic tour of duty.” After university, Barrett moved to New York City, where he trained with world-renowned chefs. He began at April Bloomfield’s Michelin-starred The Spotted Pig, and moved his way into catering for a company called Silkstone. Later, Barrett contributed to the vision and conception of Silkstone’s Lower East Side restaurant called The Fat Radish.
“Eventually I yearned for a more rural setting, that’s when I made my way to Vermont,” Barrett said. “For the opening of my first restaurant I chose White River Junction, because of its revitalization and because it’s real — the people are real, and the history is still very much alive. I found old pine boards in the basement that were used for the department store’s stock shelving. They are now my restaurant’s floor boards.”
Piecemeal Pies is located at 5 South Main Street in downtown White River Junction, Vermont. The café is set to debut in late summer and will be open Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, visit www.piecemealpies.com.