In the kitchen with Justin Bernatchez

Nashua native Justin Bernatchez is the executive chef at LaBelle Winery. Growing up with his father in the industry, he was exposed at a young age to the kitchen environment, one that he found thrilling, and he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. He started cooking in local restaurants when he was 15 and later attended Atlantic Culinary Academy’s Le Cordon Bleu program, where he graduated at the top of his class.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

A must-have in the kitchen for me would be passionate cooks who are willing to work really hard, listen and learn. … Becoming a chef takes time … It takes years, and having cooks that are passionate and devoted to the craft really helps build a strong team and makes things really fun.

What would you have for your last meal?

I’m a sucker for comfort food and … greasy fatty, cheesy and gooey … I would start with fried mozzarella sticks and some buffalo wings with tons of blue cheese dressing, then probably a really nice burger and finish it off with something chocolatey for dessert.

What is your favorite local eatery?

I live in Manchester and love exploring the ever-changing food scene. From Mexican to Thai to the dives and sandwich shops — they all have such great and interesting things to try, so to pick one would be impossible, but my favorite thing is that you can pretty much [try] food from any culture you are craving…

Name a celebrity you would like to see eating in your restaurant?

The late, great Anthony Bourdain. He was just so influential in my career, and his books and shows really inspired me to branch out and explore what the world had to offer through food…

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

My favorite thing on the menu right now at The Bistro in Amherst would be the salted caramel chicken wings …. [It’s] crispy chicken coated in a white wine caramel with fresh Granny Smith apples and smoked sea salt. … I would say that the classic steak frites would be my favorite at Americus.

What is the biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now?

I would say that the biggest food trend … would be the fusion of ingredients from other countries and other parts of the world into American-style foods to make them more approachable.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

[P]robably be anything that I can grill. I love to use my flat-top grill to make meals for my wife and kids that they are going to love.

LaBelle Winery Guinness Braised Short Ribs

½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
¼ teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
4 pounds beef short ribs
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion rough-chopped
1 large carrot rough-chopped
2 stalks celery rough-chopped
6 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
15 ounces (or more) Guinness
15 ounces (or more) beef stock

In a shallow plate whisk together the flour, salt and pepper. Dredge the short ribs in the flour mixture, making sure all sides are covered in flour. In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Once the pan is heated up, add the ribs, only half of them at a time (do not overcrowd), and sear them on all sides, about 3 to 4 minutes per side until browned. Repeat with remaining ribs. Once they are all seared, set them aside. Preheat your oven at 350 degrees in the meantime. In the same pot over medium-high heat, add the onions, carrot, celery, garlic and sauté for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the onion has softened and the garlic is aromatic. Next, stir in the tomato paste and pour in the Guinness and beef broth (amount needed is dependent on your pan size — the short ribs need to be covered with the liquid). Then, add the rosemary and thyme and bring the pot to a boil. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Add the short ribs back to the pan and cover with a lid. Transfer the pan to the oven and braise for 2½ to 3 hours, or until they are tender enough to fall apart with a fork. Remove the rosemary and thyme from the pot, then garnish with parsley and serve.

Featured photo: Justin Bernatchez. Courtesy photo.

On The Job – Lacey Brown

Bookstore owner

Lacey Brown is the owner of Henniker Book Farm & Gifts.

Explain your job and what it entails.

I get to be around and sell books all day long — what could be better than that? … What I love best is that every day is different and that is because I get to interact with people who come from all over with all different interests. With a used book store you get to put your hands on unique books that you won’t find regularly at new book stores and our inventory is constantly rotating with different books…

How long have you had this job?

About three years ago I started selling books online as a side hustle… [I]n 2022 my husband and I bought Henniker Book Farm & Gifts. At first we were going to just open online, but the public convinced us that we needed to open the doors … In August 2022 we reopened the oldest used book store in New Hampshire, originally founded in 1964.

What led you to this career field and your current job?

I grew up reading non-stop … I also spent 22 years in the high-tech industry, where I learned so much about business and people. So to combine my love for books, business and people it made for an exciting new opportunity that I could not only enjoy but share the experience with my kiddos.

What kind of education or training did you need?

Running a business isn’t easy, so any business education you can get, whether it’s schooling or hands-on. That said, hands-on experience gives you the opportunity to come in contact with real-life scenarios that just can’t be taught in a classroom.

What is your typical at-work uniform or attire?

Depends on my mood. Some days I wear funky book T-shirts, sometimes I dress up, and sometimes I wear warm comfy clothes, especially in those brutally cold months.

What is the most challenging thing about your work, and how do you deal with it?

I have limited space for storing new books before I put them on the shelves. This of course will always ebb and flow as books come in and go out, but at the end of the day no one can have too many books.

What do you wish you’d known at the beginning of your career?

I wish I had learned to take more time to enjoy life.

What do you wish other people knew about your job?

People always think that I get to read books all day, but unfortunately that’s not true …

What was the first job you ever had?

At 14, I worked at McDonald’s.

What’s the best piece of work-related advice you’ve ever received?

Leverage people’s strengths. … This is true in life too.

Five favorites

Favorite book:
Gone with the Wind. I’ve read it over and over again.
Favorite movie: Gone with the Wind. I know it’s redundant, but Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable are amazing!
Favorite music: Dave Matthews Band
Favorite food: Polish food
Favorite thing about NH: The outdoors, in all seasons, although my favorite is fall.

Featured photo: Lacey Brown. Courtesy photo.

In the kitchen with Chris Ballou

Chris Ballou, a sous chef at Americus Restaurant at LaBelle Winery in Derry, discovered his culinary bent in a high school class. He went on to attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, where he earned an associate’s degree, and gained experience in Arizona as well. Once back in New Hampshire, he started working at LaBelle Winery in Amherst before working at Americus Restaurant, where he has been for almost four years and enjoys the creative freedom to experiment with a diverse cuisine.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

The kitchen knife is definitely a must-have … but I would say a good stock pot because in culinary school you start everything from scratch and all food starts with good ingredients and my main go-to good ingredient is a good stock, so I think that is essential for me.

What would you have for your last meal?

It would have to be my mom’s pot roast. I played soccer when I was growing up and [on] rainy fall nights after a long soccer game you come home and the house just smells incredible, it’s a nice hearty meal [that] will fill you right up. Perfect for winter nights.

What is your favorite local eatery?

Green Leaf over in Milford. … He does a lot of creative things over there and it [is] amazing.

Name a celebrity you would like to see eating in your restaurant.

My chef out [in] Arizona grew up in France and he was living in the same neighborhood I think down the street of Dominique Crenn and ever since she did that episode on Chef’s Table on Netflix I’ve just been totally wowed, so that would be incredible to see her eating there.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

I have to say it’s the Mediterranean pizza that we have on the menu. … it’s just spectacular. It’s a 24-hour fermented pizza dough [made] in house … It’s amazing, such a good balance of spicy and sweet and there’s fresh oregano on top to bring it all together. It’s delicious.

What is the biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now?

I see a lot of oriental places popping up. … New Hampshire seems to be diversifying its food a lot more than it was, getting away from the New England cuisine of chowders and such like that.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

Chicken piccata. It’s easy, it’s quick, it’s delicious. I’m a big fan of bold, sour flavors too but I like to add sun-dried tomatoes into it to kind of balance it out and give it some sweetness. It’s so easy to do after a long day at work.

Chicken piccata
From the kitchen of Chris Ballou

2 chicken cutlets
1 shallot sliced
1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 cup chardonnay
1 cup chicken stock
¼ pound butter
2 Tablespoons capers
2 Tablespoons sun-dried tomato
1/2 lemon squeezed
salt and pepper to taste

On medium high heat, sear chicken for about one minute on both sides and remove from pan.
Add shallots and garlic and stir, picking up all the fond (leftover chicken bits on the bottom of pan). Cook until translucent.
Deglaze with wine.
Add in chicken stock, capers and tomatoes.
Add chicken back into the pan. Reduce by ¼.
Add butter and lemon juice, stirring constantly.
Season with salt and pepper.
Serve over rice with your favorite seasonal vegetables.

Featured photo: Chris Ballou. Courtesy photo.

On The Job – Rebecca Cardamone

Mobile boutique owner

Rebecca Cardamone owns The Trendy Dog, a mobile boutique based in Pelham selling items for dog lovers.

Explain your job and what it entails.

I own a retail pop-up shop and e-commerce business. I travel all over New England with my mobile boutique to different fairs and festivals. I also sell my products online at My products include apparel and home decor for people who love dogs. I’m an authorized “Dog is Good” retailer and carry many other brands as well.

How long have you had this job?

I just started my business in the spring of 2023.

What led you to this career field and your current job?

My love for dogs.

What kind of education or training did you need?

I have a degree in biology and worked in biotech for almost 20 years before deciding to pursue my dream of opening a business that allows me to combine my love of dogs and merchandising.

What is your typical at-work uniform or attire?

Yoga pants and one of the T-shirts or sweatshirts that I sell.

What is the most challenging thing about your work, and how do you deal with it?

The most challenging aspect is maintaining a work-life balance while running my own business. Mastering that balance is a work in progress.

What do you wish you’d known at the beginning of your career?

I wish I had enough confidence earlier in my life to pursue my dream of owning a retail shop or e-commerce business.

What do you wish other people knew about your job?

I wish people knew how genuinely happy it makes me to hear all about their pups.

What was the first job you ever had?

My first job was at a small dry cleaning business in Nashua.

What’s the best piece of work-related advice you’ve ever received?

Find something you are truly passionate about and a way to turn it into your full-time career.

Five favorites

Favorite book:
Any mystery or Stephen King book
Favorite movie: It’s a tie between Braveheart and Knives Out.
Favorite music: The Fray or Fleetwood Mac
Favorite food: Mexican and Italian
Favorite thing about NH: Fall foliage and the community in my small town

Featured photo: Rebecca Cardamone. Courtesy photo.

Rising star

A career in nursing & mentoring

Meet Michael Newell, RN, a home care nurse and mentor at Granite VNA, recently named “Young Person of the Year” by Stay Work Play during their 14th Annual Rising Stars Awards.

Tell us about your educational journey that led you to pursue a career in nursing.
I grew up outside of Keene and went to Conval High School. They had an internship program my senior year. I originally applied to all my colleges as pre-med and wanted to become a doctor. Then after doing this internship program at Monadnock Community Hospital and around the town of Peterborough — I worked with audiologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, radiologists, doctors, nurses, everyone — I found out that I actually wanted to become a nurse instead of a doctor, primarily because nurses spend a lot more time with the patients, while doctors are a bit more diagnostic and spend more time looking at the data. … I went to the University of New Hampshire for nursing.

What drew you to home health care early in your nursing career, and why did it appeal to you?
I asked for my senior rotation, or immersion rotation, at UNH to be with a home care agency. They paired me with what used to be called the Concord Regional VNA, which is now the Granite VNA. I really loved it. I like being able to meet patients where they’re at, literally and figuratively, getting to know them in their own homes or home environments. I feel that it’s actually very important, in my humble opinion, for anyone who does nursing to do some home care. In hospitals, you’re mostly looking at the patients for what they came in for — their diagnosis. But once you get out into their homes, their environments, you find that all their stories and backgrounds are different. You always know that in the back of your mind, but it’s different when you actually experience it.

Could you describe your approach to mentoring, and what principles guide your mentoring style?
I’ve always loved mentoring. I was a peer mentor for students who were on an exchange trip from China to the U.S. for a couple of weeks every year for about three years in high school. Then, in college, I was a mentor. I’m really drawn to that. My big thing with mentoring is just showing through example. I let the people I mentor follow me around, so they see everything I do, and at the same time I’m educating and talking them through everything I’m doing. I also do that with all my patients.

What personal benefits or insights have you gained from your mentoring experiences, and how have they contributed to your own career and aspirations?
In nursing, we learn about what’s called “the teach back method” — when you teach a patient, you should ask them to tell you, in their own words, what you just told them, so that they understand. Well, I find that I’m basically doing the teach back method to myself when I’m teaching the people I’m mentoring. I find that I’m understanding the material even better and making connections when I’m educating someone else about concepts.

How has your experience in home care, working with a diverse set of patients in their own environments, impacted your nursing career?
In home care, we see patients for basically everything. I call it the least specialized specialty. It’s been very eye-opening learning not only about all these different medical conditions, but also different situations for patients to have.

Looking ahead, what excites you about the prospect of becoming a nurse educator? Are there any other career aspirations you have in mind?
Eventually I do want to go into education, not necessarily in a university setting, but more like what I’m doing now, being a preceptor, educating nurses who are already nurses on different aspects of nursing. For example, I’m really passionate about incorporating LGBTQ education in nursing and nursing programs. I did my whole senior thesis on that in college. I’m actually going to a conference next weekend put on by Fenway Health Institute in Boston called “Advancing Excellence in Transgender Health” with the whole health care team, and I’m super excited about that and getting to grow my knowledge in that way.

Featured photo: Michael Newell, RN. Courtesy photo.

On The Job – Vee Nong

Permanent makeup artist

Vee Nong is the owner and lead permanent makeup artist of My Beautiful Brows in Raymond.

Explain your job and what it entails.
I do brows and lip blushing and other permanent makeup. I’ll do a quick consultation with clients to get an idea of what they’re looking for as far as shape and style. For brows, do they want an ombre look, or do they want hair strokes for a natural look, or do they want more of a bold look? If a client brings in a picture, I’ll go off of that, but I wouldn’t do anything that’s too dramatic. If I feel like it’s too much, then we find a compromise. We start sketching the eyebrows to make sure it’s what they like, and once they give their approval, we make it permanent.

How long have you had this job?
Eight years.

What led you to this career field and your current job?
I love makeup. Growing up, my passion was always makeup.

What kind of education or training did you need?
I’ve taken private training to perfect my work. You need a body art tattoo license, and to get a license, you have to work under an artist as an apprentice for 1,400 hours.

What is your typical at-work uniform or attire?
I wear scrubs, a hairnet, a mask and gloves.

What is the most challenging thing about your work, and how do you deal with it?
It’s the clients who think they know everything. Sometimes they want something that is outside of my comfort zone to do, and I don’t want my name to be on work that’s going to make me look bad. You just have to learn how to talk to them. I always try to compromise with them, and if they still feel uncomfortable, then I have to say, maybe I’m not the artist for you. It’s always best to go with someone who can compromise with you.

What do you wish you’d known at the beginning of your career?
I wish I had more knowledge, but at the same time … I think you have to go through the experience to know exactly what you need to know.

What do you wish other people knew about your job?
How passionate I am about it. I love what I do, and if people see that in me, I’m sure they will appreciate it.

What was the first job you ever had?
Finish Line shoe store.

What’s the best piece of work-related advice you’ve ever received?
How to hold the needle properly and how to mix pigments to get the color you want. — Angie Sykeny

Five favorites
Favorite book: Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
Favorite movie: Rush Hour 2
Favorite music: Country music. My favorite is Chris Stapleton.
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite thing about NH: The mountains

Featured photo: Shane and Evangaline Hooker, Courtesy photo.

In the kitchen with Ann Marie Baril

Ann Marie Baril, owner of Pastry Dream, has always loved to bake. Her passion for food comes from her grandmother, who she says always sought to bring others joy through food. When Baril had a dream one night about owning her own bakery, she first wrote the idea off as crazy. After a few minutes went by, she thought, ‘Why not?’ After researching and experimenting, Baril started Pastry Dream about a year and a half ago, serving individual-sized pastries in a variety of flavors such as lemon raspberry, chocolate peanut butter, ginger spice cake and, new for the season, pecan pie. You can find them at the Salem farmers market on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

What is your must-have kitchen item?
My Kitchen-Aid mixer. It’s the best thing that was ever created. … It’s such a fantastic tool and I think everyone should have one. Anyone who does any kind of baking needs one.

What would you have for your last meal?
I think it would have to be lobster. I live in New England [and] grew up in New England. … [I was] brought up [going] to the church festival and [having] the clams and the lobster. That’s something that I’ve eaten forever.

What is your favorite local eatery?
I have to say the Firefly Bistro in Manchester. … I’ve never had anything even mediocre there. The food is fantastic and they present it so interestingly. The wait staff is very very good.

Name a celebrity you would like to see eating in your restaurant?
I’d have to say Mike Andrews. … When I was a kid growing up I loved the Red Sox [and] I was always a fan of Mike Andrews. … When he stopped playing baseball he became the chairman of the Jimmy Fund and … I found that so incredible.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?
I love the cheesecake, I love the ginger spice and I love the chocolate peanut butter.

What is the biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now?
Mini things or small things seem to be very popular right now. That and cookies. Cookies I don’t think will ever go out of style.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?
I have to say lasagna because it’s my husband’s favorite and any time we go anywhere he may try the lasagna but he always says it isn’t as good as mine, which is a good feeling.

Cinnamon Apple Bread
From the kitchen of Ann Marie Baril

3 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
A pinch of salt
⅔ cup butter (chilled)
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
1 or 2 large baking apples, Granny Smith
¾ cup milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Grease three mini loaf pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
Cut butter into thin slices and add to bowl. Break butter into mixture with fingers until mixture is crumbly. Stir in brown sugar. Add chopped apples, milk and eggs. Stir.
The batter should be thick but not dry. If necessary, add more milk (1 Tablespoon at a time.)
Divide batter evenly into three greased mini loaf pans. Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until done. Turn loaves out and let cool on a rack.

Featured photo: Ann Marie Baril, owner of Pastry Dream. Courtesy photo.

A learning environment

NH’s Teacher of the Year talks about her class

Elizabeth Duclos, who teaches third grade at Pembroke Hill School in Pembroke, has been named New Hampshire’s 2024 Teacher of the Year. Chosen from a pool of more than 300 nominees, Duclos now advances to compete for the National Teacher of the Year award.

Explain your teaching philosophy and the kind of classroom environment you aim to create.
Children are often in a space where they don’t feel comfortable taking risks or trying new things due to fear of failure or shame. When this happens, children don’t feel open to doing things. The whole basis of what I do is wrapped around children feeling cared for and safe. That’s something that I’ve heard from many parents over the years as a teacher — that I care for their children, making connections with them, learning who they are, and knowing what they like and don’t like. We spend a lot of time cultivating a community in the classroom that allows children to find connections with each other and with me, and that truly is the backbone of what I do.

How do you ensure your students feel safe to take risks and learn from their mistakes?
We talk a lot in my classroom about productive struggle; things might not feel easy, but it’s OK to try. If we don’t make mistakes, we aren’t going to learn. We focus a lot on what we call “growing;” really, what we’re doing is editing. … We try first, look at it, and then we make an edit. And there’s nothing wrong with not using the same strategy as other people. We talk about how we can grow from each other, and that there’s many ways to solve a problem. We want to find new ways to grow our brains and see things in different ways. That’s how we make progress. They know at this point that if they stumble or struggle, we’re going to go over it all together, and then they’re going to be able to make an edit. That’s really important for children to understand — that we can fix mistakes — and that allows them to feel safe and take risks.

What does a typical day in your classroom look like, and what makes it special for your students?
I try to make our classroom feel light and fun. We give ourselves permission to laugh and sing and dance. Every day we have a morning group time … when we play a game and do a ‘share.’ This sharing could be as simple as ‘What’s your favorite food?’ and it helps students connect with each other. Students are constantly encouraged to work in groups … so they can learn how to share their thoughts and ideas and agree and disagree respectfully.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered throughout your career, and how have you dealt with those?
Helping students who struggle to be self-motivated or to find enjoyment with school. I really work to make it a joyful environment, but some students really do struggle, so finding ways to make school joyful for them can be a challenge. There are my own struggles, too, so I’m always seeking out professional development opportunities, working with my colleagues and making sure that I’m growing. It’s an ever-changing process.

How do you plan to leverage your recent award to support educators and students in your state? What core message would you like to convey?
My platform is literacy, and choice in literacy, helping educators build abundant classroom libraries. Children deserve to have access to many different kinds of literature and texts at their fingertips. My whole classroom is full of books, and they’re books that children want to read. I’m hoping to be offering monthly webinars for teachers starting in January on how to make these libraries happen. I also hope just to continue to promote literacy across the state throughout the year.

What advice would you give to other educators?
That you are enough. … We as teachers put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do everything perfectly, but I’ve learned over the years that perfect is not always best. I can try to be perfect and it’s never going to feel like enough. But as long as you’re doing what’s best for students, you’re doing enough. I would also remind them to enjoy it. Teaching does come with challenges, but ultimately it’s a very fun profession. — Angie Sykeny

Featured photo: Elizabeth Duclos. Courtesy photo.

In the kitchen with Jennifer Stone-Grimaldi

Jennifer Stone-Grimaldi bought Crosby’s Bakery, established in 1947 in Nashua, five years ago after working there for over a decade. She says she has PBS programming to thank for her interest in food; after the airing of children’s shows, she would be fascinated by chef Julia Child on the screen. As she got older she would turn to her mother’s magazines to look for a recipe she could make with the ingredients she had on hand.

What is your must-have kitchen item?
My must-have kitchen item is a sharp chef’s knife. Unfortunately most people don’t keep sharp knives in their kitchens. Not only does this make chopping more difficult, but often dull knives are more likely to slip and cause injury. I bring my own knife now when I’m planning on cooking in someone else’s kitchen.

What would you have for your last meal?
I would have Thanksgiving dinner cooked by my mom. She makes the best turkey and gravy and I love all the sides.

What is your favorite local eatery?
I can’t pick one favorite eatery, but my two favorites are both within a stone’s throw of each other in Milford, N.H. Riverhouse Café for breakfast and Greenleaf for dinner.

Name a celebrity you would like to see eating in your restaurant?
I wish Conan O’Brien would bring his travel show to my bakery. I would love to teach him how to make doughnuts.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?
My favorite products in the bakery are the specials we run and the new items we make. I prefer having variety. But my favorite old-school pastry that we’ve made forever and ever has to be the apple strudel. I remember I used to eat those as a special treat when I worked the afternoon shift out front many years ago.

What is the biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now?
One of the trends I’ve seen lately is having individual pastries for dessert at a wedding instead of serving a giant cake to everyone. A lot of couples are doing a smaller cake for display and cutting purposes and then giving their guests a choice of mini pastries, pies or doughnuts for dessert. It’s really fun.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?
My favorite thing to cook at home is anything that cooks on the stove all day when the weather’s cool. It could be marinara sauce with sausage and meatballs, pot roast, Burgundy mushrooms, etc. Anything that makes the house smell amazing until dinnertime. — Mya Blanchard

House Hot Cocoa Mix
From Jennifer Stone-Grimaldi

6 ounces cocoa powder
16 ounces milk powder
12 ounces granulated sugar
2 teaspoons powdered vanilla
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1½ teaspoons salt

Whisk ingredients together and sift three times to ensure even blending. Add two to three heaping tablespoons of mix to a mug of hot water. Add a splash of light cream for a creamier drink.

Featured photo: Jennifer Stone-Grimaldi, owner of Crosby’s Bakery. Courtesy photo.

On The Job – Shane and Evangeline Hooker

RV rental providers

Shane and Evangeline Hooker are the owners and operators of Happy Hooker Rentals in Milford.

Explain your job and what it entails.
We rent pet-friendly travel trailers and camping accessories to families and couples who are looking to make awesome outdoor memories. We currently have two campers that we maintain, clean and prepare for our renters and work with them to get ready for their trip. We also deliver the camper to the campsite, set up everything and provide help and support to our renters during their trip.

How long have you had this job?
We have been renting our campers since spring 2021, but we’ve been enjoying the camping life since we were both kids.

What led you to this career field and your current job?
Our family has really enjoyed camping in our camper over the years, and we’ve made many longtime friendships around campfires. In 2020 we really recognized the convenience and flexibility our travel trailer provided us and that we had only been using it for at most two weeks out of the year, so we began extending it out to friends who wanted to take a weeklong trip. We then started using an online RV rental platform in order to extend it to others, which made us begin thinking about this more as a business.

What kind of education or training did you need?
We’ve bought and owned several campers over the years and camped at many different campgrounds throughout New England. We’ve learned how to deal with bad weather, things breaking, and watched YouTube videos on how to fix things. … Also knowing how to use a spreadsheet, having decent interpersonal skills, and experience with pulling and placing a large trailer is a plus.

What is your typical at-work uniform or attire?
Our work involves being outside and having fun, so we tend to dress like we would any other day.

What is the most challenging thing about your work, and how do you deal with it?
Trying to accommodate everyone’s schedule and dealing with logistics can be a challenge. … Most of our renters do not have a vehicle suitable for towing so we deliver and pick up, which, depending on the campsite, can take multiple hours from our day. On the plus side we enjoy taking long drives together and tend to find our own little adventures.

What do you wish you’d known at the beginning of your career?
That some of the online rental platforms pass on very high and unnecessary fees to people who rent from them.

What do you wish other people knew about your job?
That we put a lot of time and energy into helping to make our renters’ camping experience be a great one. We offer kayaks, rafts, games, custom T-shirts and mugs, and lots of other things for families and folks to help make lasting memories.

What’s the best piece of work-related advice you’ve ever received?
If you can find a job doing something you really enjoy, it won’t feel like work.

Five favorites

Favorite book:
Shane – Angels and Demons. Eva – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
Favorite movie: Shane – Caddyshack. Eva – Labyrinth.
Favorite music: Van Halen, Grateful Dead, Metallica, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, Foo Fighters, Acoustic BS
Favorite food: Seafood, Chinese, pizza and s’mores
Favorite thing about NH: All the great places to go camping

Featured photo: Shane and Evangaline Hooker, Courtesy photo.

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