Meet the M.V. Food and Wine Festival’s visiting Chefs

Guests sample wines at last year's "Sommelier Throw Down" event. —Photo Courtesy M.V. Food and Wine Festival

Mandeep Shankar

Born in Nepal, Mandeep Shankar came to the United States in 2005 on a student visa. Mandeep started as cook at Jacob Wirth in Boston in 2006, to pay for his education. Chef Shankar was drawn to the back-of-the-house operations and became the Executive Chef of Jacob Wirth in 2012.

At Jacob Wirth, he has broadened the menu with his own talents and a palate for spice. He has worked to maintain the German traditions while presenting a menu for modern clientele that come for the history, the beer, and the food.

How and when did you start cooking? Cooking was my hobby growing up, I watched a lot of cooking shows growing up and helped my mom. I started cooking professionally at Jacob Wirth around 2007 as a line cook.

Is there a dish or meal you prepared that was part of a very special occasion?

Pork and green cabbage momo (dumpling) with chunky spicy tomato sauce, it is a very popular dish I grew up eating in Nepal, very close to my heart and very popular among people of all ages in my country. I make this for my friends at the holidays. It keeps me with one foot grounded in my culture as I celebrate new events.

Favorite dishes on any of your current menus?

Beer-braised pork shank over bacon-sautéed sauerkraut with roasted butternut squash and topped with au jus. We have this dinner special in the colder months. It is a German comfort food.

What do you cook for a romantic evening with your significant other? I am still working on finding that someone to show how my Nepali roots and German training creates a new American fusion.

What are your top five indispensable ingredients?

Thyme, pork, Spanish paprika, cloves, and cilantro, my background makes these spices and protein source the fusion of the “American Melting Pot.”

Your favorite kitchen tool?

Tongs are a second set of hands. You can never have too many hands.

What’s the best single bite you ate in the last week?

Warm honey ham with fire roasted apples, spicy mustard aioli, Swiss cheese on toasted honey wheat bread, it is a new sandwich concept for our winter menu. Sweet and spice warmed just a little.

What is currently your favorite ingredient of the fall season?

Butternut squash, I use them to make soup, appetizers, great pairing with entrees as side as well. A universal food that is both versatile and popular.

What’s on your radio/iPod when you’re prepping in the kitchen?

I listen to Hindi and Nepali songs on my iPod, I am inspired by my culture.

What would you be if you weren’t a chef?

I would be a jeweler in my family’s store in Nepal. My family has long been associated with this creative industry. I look at my current work as a way to use color, texture, and taste to create a visual the way my heritage uses color, clarity, and material to create fine jewelry.  Food must appeal visually and aromatically before taste. Jewelry is more visual.

Chef Mandeep Shankar, along with sommelier Mark Fine, is presenting the “Germany vs. Argentina: Rematch” seminar at the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival, from 5 to 6 pm on Friday, October 17, at the Grand Tent on Mayhew Lane in Edgartown. $50. Tickets at

Christopher Coombs

The young and talented Christopher Coombs pursued an education at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in New York, and he got his first taste of upscale dining while working at Blue Ginger under award-winning chef Ming Tsai upon graduation. Soon after, he headed to Nantucket where he impressed executive chef Patrick O’Connell, who took Coombs under his wing and put him to work at The Inn at Little Washington, Virginia, where he prepared special dinners at The White House and for Le Club des Chefs de Chef.

Coombs returned to Boston in 2005, and with Brian Piccini, started Boston Urban Hospitality Inc. In 2010, they opened their first restaurant, Deuxave, in Boston’s Back Bay. In early 2013, Coombs opened Boston Chops in Boston’s South End. Coombs has appeared on Food Network’s “Chopped,” and he has been recognized by Forbes magazine for their 30 Under 30 Awards. Most recently, his recipe for ribeye steaks appeared on the cover of Food & Wine magazine, and Boston Chops was included in America’s Best New Steak House recipes.

How and when did you start cooking?

I started getting interested in cooking as a teen at a place called Ocean Delight on

the North Shore. I began as a dishwasher and worked my way up to helping the

cooks. I also really embraced all cooking classes that my high school offered,

including Home Economics. I used to go home and practice cooking, especially the

baking recipes, like popovers and cakes.

Have you ever had a major cooking disaster?

Well, I had a major disaster with a cooking tool that had a lasting effect. While in

culinary school, I once tried to open a beer bottle with my chef’s knife and it slipped.

I needed 56 stitches. It was horrible.

Is there a dish or meal you prepared that was part of a very special occasion?

One of the most memorable occasions that I had the privilege to be part of is when

the Inn at Little Washington chef Patrick O’Connell cooked at the White House for

First Lady Laura Bush. He created a menu that I helped prepare called “Shock and


Favorite dish on any of your current menus?

My favorite dish on the current Deuxave menu is the roasted duck for two. It is

beautiful dish and we see a lot of couples share it. I like watching people fall in love

while eating food that I created. It makes me feel good.

What do you cook for a romantic evening with your wife?

My wife is from Russia so I try to make her foods that remind her of home. She loves

blinis and caviar with a little crème fraiche. We also enjoy smoked salmon and a nice

bottle of wine on our nights together.

What are your top five indispensable ingredients?

My top five indispensable ingredients are lemon juice, garlic, salt, butter, and sherry


Your favorite kitchen tool?

I love my Vita Prep Blender. It gets used a lot in my kitchen.

If it could be anywhere in the world, where would you open your second restaurant?

Well, this is a loaded question. I love my home and I love my city, so I am going to

stick to opening in Boston.

What’s the best single bite you ate in the last week?

The best single bite that I ate last week was at the newly opened Bar Boulud inside of

the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Boston. It was a perfect Boudin Blanc. I am still

dreaming of it.

What is currently your favorite ingredient of the fall season?

I love local, wild mushrooms. I forage mushrooms as a hobby and I love this

season’s varietals. I am partial to the Hen of the Woods. They are my favorite.

What’s on your radio/iPod when you’re prepping in the kitchen?

During prep, my kitchen team and I get pumped up listening to rap. We especially

like Kendrick Lamar and the Notorious B.I.G.

What would you be if you weren’t a chef?

If I weren’t a chef, I would probably be in finance doing something. Cooking is so

much more creative, though.

Chef Coombs is presenting the seminar “Raising the Steaks” at the Winnetu Resort from 11 am to 12pm on Saturday, October 18. $50. Tickets at