Happy Valley Chef Bringing Fresh, Year-Round Eats To Centre County
Thomas Novosel has always loved his hometown. A Central Pennsylvanian at heart, Novosel grew up in Bellefonte and eventually moved to State College.
During high school, Novosel started working for local restaurant Jim’s Italian Cuisine in Bellefonte. He enjoyed the hustle and bustle of a kitchen and everything that came with it, even washing the dishes.
This sparked a previously unknown love for cooking, so Novosel eventually took his talents south. He landed in Charleston, South Carolina, and worked for several great chefs and even began some private chef work.
“The private cheffing allowed me to have my own spin on things and focus on the cuisine that I wanted to produce, as well as the independence of trying my own ideas,” Novosel said. “That was really the big jump.”
After some time in Charleston, Novosel made his way back home and got in contact with a family friend who had a mobile wood-fired pizza oven, and Happy Valley Chef was born.
As the sole proprietor of Happy Valley Chef, Novosel has the autonomy to make all aspects of his vision come to life. He has the creative freedom of his menu and relies on the seasons of Central Pennsylvania to get the freshest, tastiest ingredients.
While he doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar store, Novosel showcases and sells his food at the North Atherton Farmers’ Market on Saturdays and the Boalsburg Farmers Market on Tuesdays.
The booth sells classic Margherita and pepperoni pies, but Novosel also focuses on seasonal and fresh ingredients from farmers in Centre County. Since the farmers’ markets are most popular from May to November, that’s where most of Novosel’s business comes in.
“That is 26 solid weeks of just cranking pizzas out,” Novosel said.
Recently, Novosel created a sweet corn and tomato pizza with sharp asiago and mozzarella cheese with a poppyseed crust as one of his specialty pizzas, using only produce from local farms.
“That just kicks off the summertime, and it’s amazing when we get those fresh tomatoes and the fresh corn,” Novosel said.
When the warm weather departs from Happy Valley, Novosel takes his creations to the Boalsburg Fire House, where the Boalsburg Farmers’ Market is held from November to May. In addition to pizza, the winter months are a great time to order one of the 26 variations of homemade soup Novosel concocts.
Last year, Novosel also took the top spot in “The Golden Basket” food competition, which recognizes the top chef in Happy Valley. He made around 100 samples and went through four rounds of judging before walking away victorious.
While Novosel loves to continue his passion for cooking, attending the farmers’ markets also allows him to get in touch with his other passion: his love for the State College and Centre County community. These outings help Novosel to tap into the student population and learn from folks from around the globe.
“Just to have the college kids and the students that are coming from all over the world have access to the farmers’ market and being within the community is really special,” Novosel said.
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