ELLSWORTH —Two years ago, graphic designer Nick Sarro and Chef Daron Goldstein of the Ellsworth restaurant, Provender Kitchen + Bar, were having the kind of “what if” chat friends often do when envisioning ways to make the world a little better. That brainstorming session turned into Chefs of Maine, a statewide network connecting the restaurant industry with breweries, farms and bakeries and offering the public an easy way to locate all of it online with a website and an app.
“This was something on my back burner for a long time, and when Nick and I started talking about putting the pieces together, it took on a life after that,” said Goldstein.
The website is a free resource featuring profiles of restaurants, breweries, bakeries, and farms along with stories and reviews of the restaurants. Since both Sarro and Goldstein are both fully employed in their own industries, this network has developed as a side project — a labor of love.
“I always thought it would be so cool to have a site like this out there for people who want to know where to go and get food and just for industry people to see what’s happening and what’s going on,” said Goldstein.
Chefs of Maine provides the public with a geolocation filter to let people know what restaurants are open in their area, which ones are doing takeout, and which are open year-round, among other filters, which provides an additional publicity boost for an industry hit hard by the pandemic.
Despite Maine’s Governor Mills Stage 4 of the Restarting Maine’s Economy plan which started October 13, 2020, increasing indoor seating capacity, many restauranteurs are still very worried going into the fall and winter about sustaining their businesses.
The Chefs of Maine network is still fairly new; the app has been downloaded around 1,000 times.
“People are finding out about restaurants from our app and site in their own neighborhoods that they never heard about,” said Sarro.
“We wanted to create a site that went more in-depth into the various Maine industries,” he continued. “We also wanted to connect those industries together, so for example, maybe you go to a local brewery and see they are offering food produced by a local farm; then you can check out that farm on our site and learn more about them. I had a bakery call me last week who wanted to sell their bread wholesale, so they took a look at all of the restaurants on our site to choose the one nearest them. And we wanted to focus on chefs; to have readers learn about the kitchen, how they make their food, and a bit of a spotlight on what they do. That was the end goal to make a connection to all of these places in Maine and let you see the real people in those industries.”
For restaurants, breweries, bakeries and farms, the site allows a free personal profile. “If they join the site, they can all the photos they want; can add videos full descriptions and events for free,” said Sarro.
The site is also a hub for job seekers and employers specific to the restaurant industry, something Sarro encourages all restauranteurs to use, as job listings are also free”
“We’re really trying to get this in front of restaurant and brewery owners and use us as a resource for them,” said Sarro.
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com