2014 Coastal New England Rising Star Chef Ravin Nakjaroen of Long Grain
Nearly two decades after coming to the United States, and at the helm of one of Maine’s boldest restaurants, it’s safe to say Ravin Nakjaroen has made an irrefutable home away from home for Thai food—in Camden. His restaurant Long Grain is like an oasis in the dessert of ethnic food gone awry that has come to characterize most Thai menus. Growing up in Thailand, his family meals were always eat-in, and Nakjaroen was paying close attention.
Trips to the market were frequent, and the work in the kitchen was plentiful during Nakjaroen’s childhood. As a teenager, he applied that experience to help redefine Thai cuisine in America. He started with a solid foundation—13 years working in many well-known Thai restaurants in South Florida. Nakjaroen eventually found a home as a Mainer, making Camden a capital for ingredient-obsessive, pure, and flavor-driven Thai food that define him as a stand-out New England chef.
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Interview with Coastal New England Rising Star Chef Ravin Nakjaroen of Long Grain – Camden, ME
Antoinette Bruno: How’d you get into cooking?
Ravin Nakjaroen: I just loved it. I loved having good food. Just growing up and always being around cooking. My parents cooked.
AB: When did you come to the United States?
AB: What was your first job?
RN: Washing dishes in a restaurant.
AB: What are you most proud of?
RN: I think we have a pretty nice spot here, and we get to do what we want to do and we get to feed all these people.
AB: How do you describe the food at Long Grain?
RN: My cooking style is comfort food focused on ethnic home-cooking and quality. Our cooking combines food originality and where we are.
AB: How do you describe the food scene in Camden? And how you fit in there?
RN: Even with less than 5,000 people, Camden offers diversity of cuisine and has great advantage of local ingredients from produce, meat, seafood, foraged greens, etc. Now Camden is more known on the food scene apart from its scenery. To fit in is not difficult. Here people pay serious attention to local ingredients and quality. And that is what we do here at Long Grain. Always remembers that word travels fast in a small town.
AB: Hardest thing you’ve had to do in your career?
RN: Staying in business, making it happen. Florida was the hardest part because we had another restaurant before Long Grain, and we tried to present a seasonal farm to table concept and people there didn’t get it.
AB: Do you have a mentor?
RN: No, not really. I literally just perfect stuff that I've done before. I've been cooking this kind of food for years, you know? There's not much else there to it.
AB: Where do you want to be in five years?
RN: To be honest. Here. To me, I'm already here. People eat my food. I would love to have a cookbook. If it’s possible to open another restaurant, yes that would be great.
AB: How are you involved in your local culinary community?
RN: It’s a small community. We know everyone around, so we network with the farms and go to the farmers markets and see our friends and stuff like that. Sometimes we do charity events and cook together. This weekend there is a fair that concentrates on the local businesses. Maine Farmland Trust. They feature a chef at the Plaintain Table to throw a dinner to raise money for the Maine Farmland Trust. We did that back in June. We totally believe in that everything starts with our ingredients, and we have AMAZING ingredients here. When you're talking about local, the freshness and flavor, it’s the best you can get.
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