Meet the Chef: Andrea Cousineau of The Lobby, Park Squeeze, Black Sheep and Bearded Frog

When you’re an executive chef, you never know when duty might call. That’s why Andrea Cousineau carries her chef knife in her purse at all times. It’s a MAC in case you were wondering.
“I go between four different restaurants,” said the executive chef of The Lobby in Middlebury, Park Squeeze and Black Sheep Bistro in Vergennes, and The Bearded Frog in Shelburne. “I never know when I’ll need it.”
The restaurant group was owned by Michel Mahe, but since his death in 2015, Cousineau and Dickie Austin have taken over as managers of the group.
“We treat it like it’s ours,” said 35-year-old Cousineau, who’s been working in Mahe’s restaurants since she was 17.
“Yeah, it’s like we have four kids — they are all restaurants,” said Austin, who graduated Vergennes Union High School in 1997 (three years ahead of Cousineau) and has been working in restaurants since he was 15.
The duo have been working together for something close to 14 years. Austin is general manager of the group, while Cousineau takes on all things kitchen.
Cousineau earned her degree from the New England Culinary Institute in 2005 and went straight to work for Mahe at The Bearded Frog. This wasn’t her first rodeo; she started out working for Mahe several years earlier at Starry Night in Ferrisburgh, then transitioned to Black Sheep Bistro as sous chef.
She and Austin worked at The Bearded Frog for seven or eight years together, all while assisting in opening new restaurants.
“I think I did 11 or 12 openings in 10 years,” Cousineau calculated.
Among the restaurants were Park Squeeze and The Lobby.
“We started The Lobby project, but then there were construction delays, so we moved on to the new Park Squeeze,” Cousineau, a Waltham resident, explained. “The original conception of Park Squeeze was a West Coast-style fast-casual with noodle bowls and wraps. Now it’s more of a cafe bar/grill. We kept the name because we had this giant neon sign.”
Why not?
Park Squeeze is aptly named. Fit snuggly in the alley space between two buildings, the restaurant opens into a small dining area with a kitchen in the back and a comfortable lounge bar with a full menu upstairs.
“This was my crowning accomplishment,” Cousineau said. “Getting all the kitchen equipment to fit in this space was a matter of inches… The menu here is surprisingly simple with excellent execution.”
If you are looking for something a little more special, head a few blocks down to Black Sheep Bistro. “It’s cozy, warm and romantic with an amazing magical energy,” Cousineau described. Adding that even though it’s the same potato and the same process across the restaurant group, “the fries just taste better there.”
The Lobby was a larger project than Park Squeeze for Cousineau because she also needed to train the new head chef, Jeff Silver.
“I work in collaboration with the chefs at each restaurant to develop the menus,” she said. But some require more work than others. “At The Bearded Frog and Park Squeeze, I’m mostly hands-off; but at Black Sheep and The Lobby I’m more hands-on because we’re in transitions with new head chefs.”
Cousineau has recently been helping Silver develop a new menu at The Lobby, which goes live Thursday, Jan. 11.
“I love food,” she said. “I like to think about it and meld flavors that are historically complimentary in new ways.”
Cousineau also loves to be busy. Juggling four restaurants, changing menus and late nights, she also raises her 1-year-old son with Justin Patas — head chef at Park Squeeze — and the help of their families.
“I need a lot of things going on to be my best self,” she reflected. “I liken my life to a game of whack-a-mole — if it’s not one thing, it’s another.
“Some days it feels like I can do it forever. Some days it feels like I won’t make it though the week… the restaurant business is hard. Michele was such a giving person and I strive to also be there for our employees personally and professionally.”
While Cousineau said she likes to give her chefs space to grow, she requires a strict level of professionalism in her kitchens.
“When a customer gets a plate of food they don’t care what you’re going through,” she said. “There’s no forgiveness. Slow down and take the time to get it right… I’m like the goalie as executive chef. I’m working every station and I know what’s going on everywhere.”
It’s not uncommon for Cousineau to be at three of the four restaurants in any given day. She goes where she’s needed, knife at the ready.
Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for features on each of the head chefs from The Lobby, Black Sheep Bistro and Park Squeeze.

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