About Swift House Inn’s proprietors, Serena Kim and Matthew Robinson
Matthew and Serena met in Los Angeles in 2018. At that time, Matthew was a former executive at 20th Century Fox looking for his next gig. Serena was the editor-in-chief of a new magazine about Asian Americans in entertainment.
Forever passionate about restoring historic homes and exploring the best in food and wine, Matthew hit upon the idea of buying an inn in New England. Equally Serena had always fantasized about becoming a creative writer in a small New England town with a liberal arts college, so his idea didn’t seem so farfetched after all.
So Matthew hired an innbroker, and they shopped inns for a year. Swift House Inn in Middlebury was the ideal choice because of its proximity to Middlebury College and its prestigious Bread Loaf Writers Program. The town also offered a wealth of cultural amenities and progressive local politics.
Just as Matthew and Serena were about to pull the trigger on the purchase, the pandemic hit in full force, the inn was shut down, and their plans were delayed indefinitely. With heads hanging low, they returned to L.A. not sure of next steps. Ultimately, they decided to return to Vermont and summer at the inn until the deal went through in the fall of 2020. Along with their dogs, Elsa and Kubrick, the couple were quickly thrust headfirst into operations during the peak of Vermont’s legendary foliage season.
Now, Matthew spends his days running operations at the inn and plotting his next round of renovations, while Serena handles gardening and marketing. Of course she still finds time to write, especially about their new life in Vermont. Elsa and Kubrick work especially hard as canine concierges. Matthew and Serena were married on July 3, 2021 at Swift House Inn.
Rissa Swan, Breakfast Manager
A native of Vermont, Rissa Swan fell in love with front-of-house food & beverage work in her experience as a server in Ludlow, Vermont, where she also won snowboard cross competitions at Okemo Ski Resort. She co-owns a food truck with her mother that serves at major Vermont fairs and festivals. For Swift House, she manages daily breakfast service and assists in running operations along with general manager and owner Matthew Robinson. Rissa loves thrift shopping, antiquing, and hanging with her cat.
Rob Fenn, Executive Chef at Jessica’s
Quiet, intense, and creative, Executive Chef Rob Fenn has cultivated an exquisite menu at Jessica’s at Swift House Inn featuring such delectable creations as juicy and succulent duck two ways, fresh and tender scallops with seasonal vegetables, and outstanding vegetarian pasta with oyster mushrooms and more.
As a child, this native Vermonter was drawn to the warmth and the bustle of the family kitchen. Naturally gifted at a young age, he followed a recipe and baked an apple pie at the age of nine. He grew up on the land, foraging, gardening, and sourcing food locally long before it was a movement.
In high school, Fenn had two great loves: cooking and snowboarding. But he yearned to know about the world beyond the Green Mountains, so after high school, he got a job as a young chef at the Mural Room, a prestigious, upscale restaurant in the Jackson Lake Lodge. Fenn honed his chops further at Snake River Grille in Jackson Hole. Eventually, he reached the level of head chef at the young age of 23 at Crescent Beach Restaurant in Lake Okoboji.
Fenn decided to return to his home state at the age of 30. Chef Rob has been the cornerstone of Jessica’s at Swift House Inn for the past 11 years, conceptualizing the menu, sourcing local farm ingredients, and innovating with seasonal flavors along in a happy and hustling kitchen.
David Herren, Sommelier and Restaurant Manager
Sommelier David Herren has lived an eclectic professional life. He worked the restaurant business to support his education from age 14 through graduate school, ultimately serving as the Food and Beverage Director of the Richland Country Club in Nashville, TN, and later as Captain and Service Training Director at the Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel. A graduate of Grinnell College in Iowa, Herren has also worked as an archaeologist in Central America, martial arts instructor and as Director of Technical Marketing for a Wall Street tech firm.
He enjoyed a 35-year career in education in K-12, college and graduate curriculums, including leadership positions in information technology at multiple universities. After 35 years in education, 13 at Middlebury College, he put a toe back into the restaurant business as a sous chef for 10 years, while also pursuing his life-long passion for wine. He is now recognized and/or certified by three international wine industry organizations.
As Sommelier and Wine Director, Herren manages Jessica’s wine program, the recipient of 16 consecutive years of awards from Wine Spectator, including the three most recent years at the Best of Award of Excellence level (fewer than 1200 restaurants in the world in 2020, and only three in Vermont have received this award). A single father, medieval mandolin player, and fluent Spanish speaker, Herren lives in Shoreham, Vermont with his cats.
Laura Fenn, Mixologist
Laura Fenn started working in the restaurant industry with her first job at age 15, and was thrust into the world of mixology at age 18 when she suddenly needed to fill in as bartender at her place of work. She immediately fell in love with the art of crafting cocktails and has been sharing her talents ever since.
Laura’s unique gift is her understanding of flavor profiles and discovering what works best together through intuition and practice, with the goal of “creating drinks that make experiences.” Her seasonally-influenced specialty cocktail list is an essential part of dining at Jessica’s. Though her expertise lies in mixing flavors, Laura’s personal favorite drink is quite simple. “Vodka. Extra cold!”
Laura is married to Executive Chef Rob Fenn. Their individual talents with flavor allow them to exchange ideas and help elevate each other’s drinks and dishes. Their talent as a team extends beyond the restaurant, the pair built their own house together!
Laura’s contributions to Swift House Inn extend beyond cocktails; when Jessica’s was undergoing renovations in spring 2021, she reupholstered all of the chairs for the restaurant.
Laura is a multimedia artist. She has her own art studio at home, where she paints, makes jewelry, and more. She sees and creates art in everything. Her artistic spirit is evident in her drinks and in her whole being; talk to her at the bar and you’ll immediately understand. Laura’s bubbly personality and charming smile make visiting her for a drink an all-around wonderful experience.
A Vermont native, Fenn resides in the Middlebury area with her husband, two dogs, and kitty.