About Us

We brought back the farm to the farmhouse to create a destination
where guests are delighted with special spaces, creative events,
superb hospitality, and the transformation of local ingredients
into scrumptious global cuisine.

Chief INNovation Officer

Jefferson Brechbühl leads the Guest Services Team and provides oversight for housekeeping, dining, all events, finance, communications, and marketing. He serves as our in-house Event Planner and ensures good operation between the front of the house and the kitchen. Jeff gained a passion for events when he led marketing and events for a D.C. Main Street organization for six years - these events including street festivals for up to 10,000 and outdoor entertainment of all sorts (even an annual dog show). At the same time, in the same neighborhood, Jeff owned a health food and catering business. From 2007 until 2015, he held fundraising and operational roles within highly regarded local and regional non-profits. He raised over $14 million for D.C. nonprofits.  As his own community service initiative, he managed the ECO Studio Regional Directory for Sustainable Living. Jeff speaks German, Portuguese, and Spanish and spends his free time running on trails, bicycling country roads, gardening, and planning family excursions.
person giving a speech

The Chef Proprietor

Bruce R. Barnes is our chef-proprietor. Until recently, he was the senior executive chef at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., a top account for his company, Restaurant Associates, where he oversaw daily food service for more than 6,000 guests, including royalty and heads of state. Over 14 years, he earned top chef status at Restaurant Associates, leading accounts at renowned cultural institutions and top corporations in New York City and Washington, D.C., and winning the "Chef of the Year" title in 2012. He has often been a guest chef at high-profile events, including D.C. Cultural Tourism's Embassy Chefs' Challenge; on "Good Morning America," he won the Polar Bear Chef's Challenge in 2003. In the 1990s, he owned the popular Harvest and Universal Grill restaurants in New York's East Village. During Harvest's heyday, Velvet Underground leader and solo artist Lou Reed closed the restaurant for private Thanksgiving dinners with his wife Laurie Anderson. Bruce gained his early culinary training from chefs in Provincetown, Mass., and NYC. He has regularly worked with food stylists and developed a cookbook for the Mitsitam Cafe at the National Museum of the American Indian.

Event Designer

Lisa Spahl brings creative life and style to our events, holidays, and weddings. She earned a BA in Fine Arts. A love of nature and design led her to work as a floral designer. Over the years, she has explored crafting with a variety of materials to develop more elaborate event presentations. Pulling inspirations from her gardens and foraging in the woods and fields, gives a fresh, unique approach to her designs. -"To make the ordinary, extraordinary. To create a unique space to celebrate an event is my goal. To help make your special day the most memorable it can be!" - Lisa will bring together your full floral design and other elements to personalize your preferred choice of our Four Design Themes. For couples who contract for our Destination Wedding Package, she will work with you to enhance the grounds, select focus areas for embellishment, introduce signature pieces, make fabulous style choices and incorporate select personal items. She helps all event hosts bring style and attention to detail to their events. She also helps coordinate bridal parties as they get ready to walk down the aisle!

Sous Chef

Benjamin Vaillancourt was born and raised in southern New Hampshire, Ben graduated from New England Culinary Institute in 2005. Upon completing his final internship at Bedford Village Inn, he was asked to remain as a A.M. Line Cook. He was continually promoted to P.M. Line Cook, Rounds Cook, Lead Line Cook, and then Sous Chef. Shortly thereafter, he was offered to open the Ostera restaurant in Philadelphia with the Chef de Cuisine. Before he could accept, Ben suffered a tragic car accident on his way home.

The nerves that operate his left arm were severed from his spine in a car accident and he remained in a coma for two months. Upon reviving, his short-term memory was gone, and he suffered from considerable pain that forced him to be on disability assistance for a few years. With the loss of his arm, he was unsure of myself and struggled with what to do with his life. After much soul searching and obtaining his real estate license, only to find a corpse in his first listing, he knew he needed to find a way to get back on track to fulfill his childhood dream of being a chef. Ben's doctor recommended that he move to a drier climate to help his "phantom pain."

Having to not only convince himself that he could manage the work, but also any employer, it took him some time until he was eventually given a chance by Chef John Bell, a 3-time culinary Olympic medalist, at Bell's BBQ in Henderson, NV.

After four years, Ben decided to return home to New Hampshire where he managed with part-time work at MacDowell artist residency program in Peterborough as an assistant to Colby Hill Inn's Prep Chef Babette Haley. With a pending departure of the inn's Sous Chef in February of 2023, Babette highly recommended Ben to Chef Barnes. We have been extremely impressed by Ben's enthusiasm, teamwork and drive and we marvel at his determination to figure out how to perform at his best while always shining with his personality as well.


Hospitality Leader

Emily Bupp
Image may be subject to copyright

Farming Director

Sachiko Ito Howard, PhD, joined the Colby Hill Inn staff in 2022, after retiring from teaching chemistry at New England College. Sachie is here to help expand the farming activities of producing herbs and vegetables for the Grazing Room. She is a 30-year member of the UNH Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Program. Her specialty is growing Asian vegetables not usually found locally, as well as producing varieties of vegetables specified by Chef Barnes for his menu featuring international cuisine. When not tending the vegetables, she is busy taking care of flowers in the garden and in the dining room. But she will not milk the goats.


Lead Prep Chef

Alessandro Vigo

Maintenance & Repairs

Theodore Henderson

Hospitality Ambassador

Christine Mercer

Prep Chef

Bobby Spence

Prep Chef

Elizabeth Henderson