Congratulations to Julien Langevin

Congratulations to Julien Langevin (USCC bio) on winning the Cup Tasters competition at the 2022 US Coffee Championships. Langevin works as a coffee roaster at Coffee By Design.

In the Cup Tasters event competitors “test their sensory skills by discerning taste differences in a ‘triangulation.’ The competitor with the ability to taste, smell, concentrate, and recall, those with the most correct answers in the shortest amount of time wins.”

The national coffee championships were held over the weekend at the Specialty Coffee Association annual conference that took place in Boston. Langevin will represent the US at the World Coffee Championships later this year.

Erin French, Reviews Return

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes an article about Erin French, the chef/owner of The Lost Kitchen in Freedom,

Longtime Freedom resident Wilson Hess said that French’s passion for her multifaceted role at The Lost Kitchen and her charming hospitality is the restaurant’s secret sauce. “She’s a gracious personality and a wonderful storyteller,” said Hess, who has dined at The Lost Kitchen. “Everyone in the room feels like they’re at home when they’re there.”

and an announcement by restaurant critic Andrew Ross about the upcoming return of restaurant reviews to the newspaper and insight into the ways his approach will differ from pre-pandemic days.

If you haven’t worked it out yet, be patient, reader: Please remain seated and keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times – we’re about to start reviewing again.

As I gear up for a return to thinking critically about restaurant dining, I’ve also been realizing how different writing a full review will be. It’s pure denial to insist that our world is normal again, so why should we expect our food writing to be the same as it once was?

Interview with Sayvepen Sengsavang

The Lao Food Foundation has published an interview with chef Sayvepen Sengsavang who is the chef and co-owner of Le Mu Eats (instagram) in Bethel, Maine.

Q: What does innovation of Lao cuisine mean to you? Why is it important?
A: To me, innovation in Lao cuisine is all about telling my own personal story, as a first generation Lao American, through food; taking the Lao cuisine I grew up with, understanding it, respecting where it comes from or why something is done a certain way, but then using the ingredients and tools that are more readily available. I’m not making food that is “authentically” Lao, but making it authentically to me and my experience as a Lao American. I’m the child of Lao refugee immigrants, but I was born and raised in the United States, so I’m not going to make food that looks exactly like my parent’s food…It’s important to tell your own story; trying to tell the story of traditional Lao food doesn’t make sense coming from me. I still use the flavors of Laos, Lao techniques, Lao foods that are available because they are a part of my story, but they are not the entirety of my story.

Read the full interview on the Lao Food Foundation blog.

Interview with Krista Kern Desjarlais

Slice, Spade, Soiree has published an interview with Krista Kern Desjarlais.

I was hired to be the opening chef for Guy Savoy at his new restaurant opening in Caesars Palace, so I went to Paris for additional training for this new opportunity. When I returned to Las Vegas from Paris, I learned that the restaurant was delayed. I was reminded of a conversation I had in Paris with the Chef de Cuisine for Guy Savoy. Like me, he was older than everyone in the kitchen there, and commented that, at my age, I should be running my own restaurant! It was another turning point. I returned to Maine and opened Bresca in early 2007.

Chase Rochon, Certified Pommelier

Congratulation to Chase Rochon who has successfully passed his examinations and sensory testing to become a Certified Pommelier.

The CP professional certification has been established by the American Cider Association to provide hospitality professionals a way to develop and demonstrate their knowledge of cider. The first level in the ACA certification program is becoming a Certified Cider Professional.

Rochon is one of only 26 Certified Pommeliers in the country and the first person in Maine to earn that distinction.

Rochon is a co-owner of Craft Curbside in Gray which stocks a wide range of ciders.

My Kitchen Their Table: Tina Cromwell

Welcome to the March 2022 edition of My Kitchen, Their Table, an interview series with the chefs and culinary professionals who work hard to satisfy our small city’s big appetite. This month we’re featuring an interview with Tina Cromwell from Bam Bam Bakery. Photos and videos will continue to expand on the story throughout the rest of the month on instagram, so stay tuned.

Flour. Butter. Eggs. These are staples in baking as much as wood, stone, and metal are in construction. But, one Portland baker has proved these ingredients aren’t essential. With “chemistry, a little bit of magic, and a lot of trial and error,” Tina Cromwell’s gluten-free, vegan chocolate cake is just as delicious as one laden with flour, butter, and eggs.

Tina and her husband, Lance, own and operate Bam Bam Bakery, the city’s first exclusively gluten-free bakery. Founded in 2011, The Cromwells purchased the business in 2017. And, while they kept most recipes unchanged, they adjusted some to accommodate more dietary restrictions. Others, like the bagels, are new creations.

As someone who has struggled with gluten sensitivity since childhood, Tina can attest to how difficult it can be to find a tasty substitute. “When gluten-free alternatives first came out, most of it wasn’t very good, and some people are still skeptical. But our stuff is really good. You can’t even tell the difference,” she asserts.

Before taking over Bam Bam, Tina studied hotel and restaurant administration at the University of New Hampshire and worked in San Francisco and Napa Valley under prominent chefs like Wolfgang Puck. She returned to Maine just as the state’s food scene was gaining traction. She served at Primo for three seasons and has held nearly every position at Fore Street on and off for fourteen years.

Last summer, Bam Bam relocated to the former Cakes Extraordinaire space on Brighton Avenue. The bakery is open Friday and Saturday from 9 am to 3 pm. In addition to cookies, cakes, and other confections, Bam Bam also has savory items like chicken pot pie and lasagna. Continue reading to learn how many alternative flours and starches Tina uses, her favorite Bam Bam treat, and where she goes for a gluten-free meal in Portland and beyond.


AA: Did you create all the recipes at Bam Bam?
TC: Not all of them. I bought the recipes but tweaked quite a few, like the chocolate cake is now vegan. The egg replacer makes it fudgier, so no one complains. We also came up with a ridiculous bagel recipe. Our bagels are so good, and they’re gluten, dairy, soy, and nut-free.

AA: What ingredients do you use to replace gluten?
TC: We have fifteen different flours and starches that we use in different combinations depending on what we try to achieve. We use a variety of flours like garbanzo, sorghum, millet, and rice. For binders, we use xanthan gum and psyllium. It’s the most bizarre baking I’ve ever done in my life. It’s chemistry, a little bit of magic, and a lot of trial and error.

AA: Do you accommodate any other dietary restrictions?
TC: Yes, we are a go-to for people with food allergies because so many people with celiac disease are also lactose intolerant or have an egg allergy. It’s difficult to find baked goods that don’t have cream, butter, or eggs. We try to make as many items as possible with vegan butter or plant-based milk.

AA: What is your favorite item at Bam Bam?
TC: My favorite is the caramel delight bar with a brownie base, dried cherries, pecans, peanuts, chocolate chunks, caramel, and sea salt. It’s sweet, salty, crunchy, nutty, and chocolatey.

AA: What are your customer favorites?
TC: We make a chicken pot pie that is ridiculously delicious. The secret to making the pie crust is eggs, which isn’t traditional. We have avid fans for that one. Our cinnamon roll is also a customer favorite. The process is so different than what you’d expect. The dough is goopy and has to be put between plastic wrap to roll it out.

AA: What are your favorite restaurants in Portland?
TC: Going out to eat for me starts with asking, “Can I eat anything here, and do I trust them?.” Even if the menu says gluten-free, there’s the risk of cross-contamination. If they have a dedicated fryer, I’m there.

AA: Do you know of any restaurants with dedicated fryers?
TC: Sinful Kitchen is one. The owner, Dave Mallari, has celiac disease. It’s my go-to breakfast spot on the weekend. I get the gluten-free waffle benedict. Another one is Saltwater Grille in South Portland. They have outdoor dining and a view of the Portland waterfront. It’s beautiful. I had fried scallops for the first time in probably fifteen years, and I think we’ve been back three times since. $3 Deweys on Commercial Street also has a gluten-free fryer and vegan options like a jackfruit barbecue sandwich.

AA: Have you discovered any new gluten-free spots?
TC: I recently tried Sticky Sweet. Two sisters own it. They make plant-based ice cream and have all of these crazy flavors, like maple coffee and key lime pie. It was the first time I had a waffle cone in a long time.

AA: Where have you had a particularly memorable meal?
TC: I have to go with Primo. It is hands down my favorite restaurant. A good portion of the menu is already gluten-free or has a gluten-free substitute. The salads are so good because she has her own garden. The last time I went, I had the whole-roasted Branzino, fried zucchini blossoms, and cornmeal cake with fruit and housemade ice cream.

AA: What other restaurants outside of Portland do you recommend?
TC: There’s a restaurant in Ogunquit called BeachFire with lots of gluten-free options. I had their peanut butter and jelly burger. It was really good. MK Kitchen in Gorham has more upscale gluten-free options. We recently ordered takeout. I had the risotto and fried brussels sprouts.

AA: One last thing. What is the BamBamBulance, and when can we expect its debut?
TC: The BamBamBulance is basically a generator on wheels. It’s not a traditional food truck because we don’t need propane or cooking abilities. It’s more like a mobile retail space. We also plan on using it for events, like mobile cupcake parties. We’re in the process of applying for the permit and hoping to launch this summer.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Previous editions of My Kitchen Their Table have featured Courtney Loreg, Chad Conley  Atsuko Fujimoto, Matt Ginn, Jordan Rubin, Cara Stadler, Thomas Takashi Cooke, Ilma Lopez, Bowman Brown, Brian Catapang, Kelly Nelson, Lee Farrington & Bryna Gootkind, and Jake and Raquel Stevens.

The My Kitchen Their Table series is brought to life through the talent and hard work of food writer Angela Andre, and the generous sponsorship by Evergreen Credit Union and The Boulos Company.

Christian Hayes/World Central Kitchen

Chef Christian Hayes has announced plans to depart for Poland where he’ll be working with World Central Kitchen to serve meals to the Ukrainians fleeing from the invasion of the home country.

Friends and family – As a proud member of @wckitchen, I will be making my way to the Ukrainian border to cook, feed, and nourish the thousands of families and children fleeing the invasion on a daily basis. @chefjoseandres has set up camp and #chefsforukraine is in full effect, and I will be leaving next week for the Poland/Ukraine border to join the effort.

At home, our restaurants will be running special menus during my departure to help raise funds for the cause, and I couldn’t be more proud of the support and encouragement, and willingness to join the fight my team has shown me. Chef José Andrés is a humanitarian, a selfless hero, and an inspiration.

Humans need help. Here. There. Absolutely everywhere. If there is ever a moment that I realize I have the ability to help someone, no matter how big or small, I will jump at the chance to do so because I honestly feel like with each chance I take to help a fellow human being, the world gets a just a little bit kinder, and I desperately want a kinder world for my children.

I’m a cook. So I will cook. Love you all. More info to come.

Hayes is the chef/owner of The Garrison, Dandelion Catering and Thoroughfare in Yarmouth.

World Central Kitchen is a humanitarian organization established by chef Jose Andres that is “first to the frontlines, providing meals in response to humanitarian, climate, and community crises.” You can make a donation to World Central Kitchen and learn more about their work to help Ukrainian refugees on their website.

Donation to Fight Food Insecurity, Vegan Options

The Food & Dining section in today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes an article about Kevin Ly and his company’s donation to Full Plates Full Potential. Ly grew up in Portland poor and hungry. Knowing the impact of food insecurity first-hand he’s donated the profits from the first year of his business Golden Wat Cognac to help fight food insecurity in Maine.

But as a child in Portland’s Riverton Park, a low-rent public housing community, Ly grew up hungry. He was the eldest of four siblings living in a three-room apartment with their young, single mother, who had recently immigrated from Cambodia.

“We had a kitchen with absolutely nothing in the cabinets but some ketchup packages,” Ly said. “And we didn’t even have it as bad as some families I know.”

Today’s paper also includes a wrap-up of vegan food options in Maine.

Spring remains weeks away, yet vegan and vegetarian ventures keep popping up across the state. Here’s a look at the latest in Maine veg news.

Interview with Sam Hayward

News Center Maine has aired a really nice Rob Caldwell interview with Sam Hayward.

“Like playing rock-and-roll and jazz, which I was really familiar with, there was an improvisational aspect to [cooking] that really caught me, that really grabbed me,” he said. “I still love being handed a basket of ingredients and figuring out how to put them together and what to do with them.”

New Owners at Yosaku

Yosaku (instagram) has changed hands and is now owned and operated by Rattanak Tray and Hope MacVane-Tray. Rattanak Tray has been a sushi chef at Yosaku since it opened for business 19 years ago.

The couple are happy to have the opportunity to build on the legacy established by retiring owners Takahiro and Susan Sato who founded Yosaku in 2003.

The Trays plan to make some changes including adding 20 new sakes and 6 Japanese whiskeys, a Japanese gin and a Japanese vodka to the bar menu—Yosaku now offer daily special $10 sake flights. They are planning on bringing back some old favorites to the menu and some changes to the interior design including a larger bar for both indoor dining and to better support take out order pick-up.