In a historic schoolhouse in Fairfield County, Connecticut, chef Tim LaBant saw a great restaurant in the making. So in 2007, he and his wife, Julie (his childhood sweetheart who, like LaBant, was born and raised in the Wilton, CT, area), took the plunge as business partners, creating The Schoolhouse at Cannondale, dedicated to sourcing ingredients from local farms, and serving sophisticated food with inspiration LaBant has drawn from around the world.

Before LaBant headed “home” to open The Schoolhouse, though, his career took several twists and turns. After graduating from Ohio’s Wittenberg University, and working in a Boulder, Colorado, restaurant, LaBant tried his hand at a sales career at IBM, but found his heart wasn’t in it—he’d rather be cooking.  So he took the leap into culinary school, graduating with honors from Johnson & Wales. French cuisine was a significant influence in his early career, as he went on to work at Boston’s elegant L’Espalier, under chef-owner Frank McClelland. That stint was followed by apprenticeships at New York’s Le Bernadin and Aureole, and then LaBant moved on to assisting Boston chef Ming Tsai (of television’s Simply Ming).

Branching out on his own, he launched Tim LaBant Catering in 2005. Now, with The Schoolhouse, in its sixth year of business, LaBant lets that fusion of French and American flair shine in dishes from a foie gras torchon with pickled cherries to a chocolate soufflé, proving that it’s not only possible but providential to go home again.