learned, refined techniques. I can be rough-hewn because those refined
techniques are not ingrained.
LT: Your cuisine has
been described by others as “New England’s closest equivalent
to Alice Waters.” How does it feel being compared to Alice
Waters? How would YOU describe your cuisine?
SH: Totally unworthy and a little embarrassed.
My cuisine is simple. I limit the number of ingredients so as to
not overshadow or over complicate the preparation. I like to shine
a bright light on the raw material. Other efforts are superfluous
and distracting. I am interested in how to use locally raised food,
seasonal and fresh produce. It reveals something about Maine. The
traditions and agriculture. I find that more interesting than satisfying
my own flights of fancy and personal artistic expression. I find
inspiration out of local forests, waters.
LT: Who have
been your influences?
SH: Fernald Point and his book Ma Gastronomie.
If I sense that one of my incoming cooks has potential and likes
to read, I make them read this book. Also Jean-Louis Palladin and
Allain Chapelle. They were always exploring and experimenting, very
connected to the earth, the notion of terroir, saw food as simple
and brilliant. Alice Waters. I have read her books, and eaten there
twice in my life. It was everything I had hoped it would be. She
led us to the “farm to restaurant” concept that is uniquely
strong in Maine and has made Maine an epicenter for the concept
on the east coast. There was also a woman home cook I met in the
early 80’s. Trudy Hupper. She and her sister cooked on logging
barges in the 1920’s and earlier. She would have these parties
in the wintertime with massive amounts of turkeys, hams and pies.
She was a terrific storyteller. She taught me what Maine food tasted
like in the early 20th century and that has had a huge impact on
I was in culinary school, I noticed a difference among my classmates.
Some of us were already good cooks, others had potential, but some
were way beyond the rest of us. The way they approached food was
almost mystical, like an inner harmony that the rest of us could
only hope to know one day for ourselves. Do you think someone is
born with THIS - or can IT be learned?
SH: I was not born with IT. But because of all
the women in my life – my mother, grandmother, aunt –
being in the kitchen was like play. The smell memories are powerful.
My approach is sensual, tactile, very mystical because food is part
of the connection to land and place.
is your advice to aspiring chefs?
SH: Eat, taste, learn how to use salt and pepper,
develop technique the best you can, eat other people’s food
as often as you can, eat from the land or sea where you are, and
know when to stop adding other things to the dish.
LT: How do
you guarantee consistency in your kitchen?
SH: Consistency is not top priority. Quality is
crucial. I require precise cooking techniques because we are dealing
with wood fires – a reluctant technology. When dealing with
small-scale local farmers there is no way to guarantee consistency.
There are dramatic cooking characteristics. I don’t fight
the differences, I celebrate them. Animals are never identical,
so the outcome isn’t either. That is what is so fascinating.
Consistency is a cover up for standardized food. I look for quality,
taste, seasoning, precise cooking, and sensitivity to muscles of
do you do when you’re not cooking?
SH: I am usually in the woods or the garden, writing,
backpacking or canoeing.
SH: Opening a seafood retail shop with a seafood
restaurant in the Public Market in the early summer. We will serve
traditional New England shore foods using the best raw materials.
Standard Bakery will make our oyster crackers, Parkerhouse rolls
and brown bread. We will do the food with care and attention to
detail, and it will be affordable.
you get to cook much these days?
SH: Not as much as I’d like. I spend a lot
of time with the farmers and foragers, learning about new products,
talking to them about how to cook with them, what makes them unique.
Then I bring it back to the restaurant and play around with it.
When I feel confident, I teach my cooks, or at least my sous chef,
how to work with the product. Like me, all my cooks right now have
an exceptionally short attention span, and they are always hounding
me for new products to use, new dishes to cook. They like to be