Managing Stress

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram reports on the stresses being felt by restaurant staff during the pandemic and the ways they’ve managed them.

Local restaurateurs have made it through the past year with the help of friends, exercise, meditative activities, time in nature, and therapy. Some say that although they have been working extraordinarily hard to save their businesses, being forced to slow down during temporary closures and standing in nearly empty dining rooms has given them a new perspective and an appreciation for a better work-life balance – not only for themselves, but for their employees as well.

New Chef at Ada’s

Ada’s announced the hire of Brendan Levin as the new chef at their Portland location. According to the press release, Levin has 20 years of culinary experience as both a chef and general manager in restaurants from Texas up to Southern Maine. His most recent position was at Lure Kitchen and Bar in Portsmouth. Levin is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute.

Erik Desjarlais at Owl & Elm

Erik Desjarlais
has been hired as the new chef at Owl & Elm (website, facebook, instagram) in Yarmouth.

At Owl & Elm Desjarlais and owner Caitlin Henningsen are planning an elevated village pub menu. Fans of the burger and fish and chips can rest easy that those items will remain on the menu unchanged as will the daily ice cream sundae. The new menu will include items like frisée salad with a duck egg, fried quail with buckwheat waffles, steak frites, fish baked in parchment and a pavé of pork belly with beans on brioche toast, with specials woven into the menu on a regular basis.

Owl & Elm opened 5 years ago and is expected to reopen in the first week of June. The restaurant is located at 365 Main Street in Yarmouth. In addition to their dining room Owl & Elm also has a outdoor dining space on their back deck.

Desjarlais was the chef/owner of Bandol, Ladle and Evangeline in Portland and went on to found Weft & Warp. Most recently he’s been the general manager and chef at the New Gloucester Village Store.

Interview with Krista Kern Desjarlais

For the latest episode of Food Coma Maine host Joe Ricchio sits down for a conversation with Krista Kern Desjarlais, chef/owner of The Purple House, and Bresca and the Honey Bee.

In this episode, I sit down with Krista Kern Desjarlais, chef and owner of The Purple House, as well as Bresca & The Honey Bee. She also operated one of the most well-regarded and missed Portland eateries, Bresca. We delve into her professional restaurant career – past, present, and future. I confess to my love of white chocolate. It’s very exciting. You’ll love it. Please enjoy. 

Ben Jackson Joining Magnus

James Beard Award nominated chef Ben Jackson will be joining the team at Magnus on Water for the relaunch of the Biddeford cocktail bar and restaurant.

Alchemy /ˈalkəmē/ a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.

The food Ben cooks is deeply comforting, yet vibrant. It is often full of subtle surprises—some may even say it’s alchemy. Yet, perhaps most of all, Ben is inspired by the phenomenal land and seascape of Maine; the bounty and gifts of all the beings here. He hopes to honor these lives, our family, and the change of seasons, via the food on our plates.

I think this is an amazing match-up of talent, and am looking forward to seeing how the synergies develop between Jackson’s food, Catapang’s cocktails and the stellar hospitality Magnus got known for in the short time they were open.

Magnus on Water (websitefacebookinstagramtwitter) was launched by Carmen Harris, bartender Brian Catapang, general manager Brittany Saliwanchik and Julia Russell on January 18th 2020 and had a short run of regular service before being shutdown by the pandemic. They re-opened during this past summer for outdoor service on their granite patio.

Prior to moving to Maine, Jackson was a sous chef at Diner and Marlow and Sons and the executive sous chef Reynard in the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn. In Portland Jackson was the founding chef at Drifters Wife which closed in 2020. Jackson was a James Beard Best Chef nominee in 2020 and Drifters was named one of the 10 best restaurants in America in 2018 by Bon Appétit. In the time since Drifters closed Jackson has been private chefing as well as operating events and the Beautiful Swimmer takeout pop-up series.

Magnus plans to open early this summer. Stay tuned to their instagram account for updates and further information.

Changes at Tiqa

Emil Rivera is taking over as the executive chef at Tiqa, the pan-Mediterranean restaurant in the Courtyard restaurant on Commercial Street. Chef Siddharta Rumma has also joined the culinary team at Tiqa.

Tiqa was opened in 2015 by husband and wife team Deen Haleem and Carol Mitchell. It’s currently closed but is expected to re-open in May.

Rivera was founding chef at Sur Lie until late 2019. Rumma was the chef at Ada’s Portland and late last year launched his takeout pasta business Fusillo.

Restaurant Staff Vaccinations

For today’s paper the Bangor Daily News talked with restaurant owners about what being able to get their staff vaccinated means for the industry.

“I think there was a little fear that we wouldn’t be fully vaccinated before the summer season hit,” [Blue Spoon owner Liz] Koenigsberg said. “Now that we know that we are going to be, there’s a lot of positivity. Maybe there’s some light at the end of this crazy 13-month tunnel.”

Interview with Josh Potocki

Food Coma has published a podcast interview with Josh Potocki.

In this episode, chef and entrepreneur Josh Potocki begins with describing his personal journey, before we start waxing nostalgic about the golden age of decadence. Well, for us anyway. It was our scene, different from now – not that there is anything wrong with the current state of affairs. I think it’s part of getting old when terms like “Pop-Up” can’t help but solicit a huge eye roll. Also if you can take away anything from this episode, it’s that your event will inevitably be a lot less cool once you lose control of the guest list. Plus the world started going downhill once “Everyone” was now considered a “Winner.” Lastly, we kill some deer. For a good cause. 

New Chef at Sur Lie

Sur Lie has announced the hire Jordan Slocum (instagram) as their new chef de cuisine. Slocum will take the place of Jef Wright.

Native to the Northern Panhandle of Texas, Jordan started his culinary journey in Seattle, Washington. After attending a curated dinner held by his brother Joel he began pursuing a career in the professional kitchen. Attending National Culinary Institute in San Diego, California while simultaneously serving as an apprentice through a classic French tutelage at Penfolds in Temecula, he embraced his new career with fervor and eagerness. Focusing his passion and craft in the Industry for 13 years working in all aspects of service. From craft bartending, private estates & yachts, to running his own events company with Forage & Fir he found himself on the shores of Maine in 2017 and instantly fell in love. The bountiful resources and the romanticism of the seasons only fuels his drive for a focus on international technique through hyper local ingredients. Those diversely abundant treasures of our bountiful coasts, hearty seasonal produce, and mystic forests. With the goal to translate nostalgia and draw lines to cuisine all over the world in his dishes, while still remaining acutely, and respectfully… Maine.

Pugh & Evans: The Early Days

This month’s edition of Mainer News includes a feature on Rob Evans and Nancy Pugh as they made their way through the early days on their Portland careers with Hugo’s and the founding of Duckfat.

When Evans and Pugh bought Hugo’s in the fall of 2000, all they had was trust in each other’s strength and ability. They certainly didn’t have any money, and though Chef Rob went on to earn many accolades, including a James Beard Foundation award in 2009, it took a decade to attain financial security. Only in the past year or two has the couple — who sold Hugo’s to a group of its employees in 2012 — felt that Duckfat Culture had evolved to the point where they can rely on the team to run the perpetually busy restaurant without them being in the building.

The March issue also includes a report on a visit to Panda Market in Buxton and an article about using cocktail bitters with beer.