The #StateofME : The Personal Side of TABLE
Maine has a long-history as a haven for those who want to pursue their dreams. This post centers on the unique way in which Maine is at the center for the country’s expanding food culture. For Kristin Fuhrmann-Simmons, Maine (and its unique culinary brand) is a key focus for her work with Table.
Do you believe that anyone can cook?
I believe it wholeheartedly and I believe that everyone should cook. I have long held the belief that no matter what I am doing in life or how stressful things get, when I cook and eat great food, the world feels clearer, brighter and more focused. I obtain a zen-like bliss when I prepare food and I believe it makes me a better parent, friend, and partner.
Food is connection.
We bond with one another over meals and there is an immediate return on the effort that we put into food’s creation and presentation.
I ask you this: What other arenas in your life offer such instant gratification? (I know some of your are thinking “Sex!” or “Binge watching Netflix!” and you may be partly right)…but food is definitely at the top of my list.
I began my career in food strictly as an avocation – something I did as a hobby to support what I felt was more socially meaningful. I worked my days as a hospital social worker, and by night, a baker-slash-culinary experimenter. I wrestled with the desire to pursue a profession in food. I was saddled with the misconception that my work had to be brutally soul sucking in order to be that worthwhile to humanity.
Giving back to my community meant aiding people in their day-to-day survival and the idea of teaching people about the many facets of wine or how to make a chocolate ganache truffles felt woefully frivolous.
My mind was changed with the advent of my career as a parent. “It’s all all about ME,” I thought…not in a selfish way, but in the manner that what I chose on a day-to-day basis would be the model for what I would provide to my daughters. They would be watching and learning from me.
Parenting does change you and in my case, it was all for the better.
I felt joy and liberation as a parent in how I viewed my own gifts and skills. I felt the urgency to share with my daughters how to really live life to the fullest. I slowly let go of social work and packed our bags for Maine and for an adventure in life, family and food culture. It was the best decision I could have made and the best gift to my daughters.
I began to travel extensively to eat and to write about it. I held cooking classes from my home in and baked large extravagant cakes. Food storytelling became my second nature and people here on the seacoast began to take notice. Fast forward a few years and that hobby became a part-time job for a local Maine newspaper and then a full time occupation.
A little over 2-years ago, that food career went even further when I had a call from a colleague. She wanted to create a place here in Kennebunkport where people could go to, “Taste, learn, and celebrate.” This Maine food center called, “Table” was the kind of dream that kept her up at night: It had to happen here in Kennebunkport and the time was right.
She was on to something.
The truth is, we live in an area here of Maine that is FULL of great cuisine and resources. Phenomenal food quality is been part of our Maine culture forever.
We have bragging rights to one of the world’s most decadent foods (lobster) and a unique set of talent that is distinct to the region. Long gone are the days where were are only known for raisin brown bread in a can and milky haddock chowder. Table’s creator, Deb Lennon knew wholeheartedly that people craved food experiences and that they would be willing to travel looooonggg distances in order to get it. She challenged me to craft a distinct series of events that would draw in a local and national crowd and elevate the much lauded food culture that existed here.
In the immortal words of Julia Child, “Cooking is autobiographical. It reveals a lot about who you are. Navigate a plate of well made food and you have a decent map of the soul of the people who make it. It is unmistakable: the training, the taste level and the DNA of a place, the cook is right there on the plate.”
The opportunity to help get Table off the ground in Maine felt like a natural step. I signed on to help Deb and her team bring the culinary center to life. We knew when crafting the space what the mission would be: Taste, Learn and Celebrate. We wanted to distill that essential DNA and Brand of Maine and New England. We had to be careful to capture that vital flavor. Who would we recruit to teach? What cooks? Which chefs? What makers? How would we showcase their talents? And importantly, how could we make it viable?
We started hotel based classes through the Kennebunkport Resort Collection. We needed to start of with a hit class so we launched with a subject that most everyone loves: booze. It turns out, when you blend craft alcohol with history and technique lessons, you get a potent mix. We were booked solid within our first three months.
Having seen how popular these classes were, we had to expand our repertoire and craft a digital presence as well as a physical one. We brought in friends to help tell the story of food and determined that our visual storytelling would rival the caliber of the classes we taught.We launched a personal website to dig into the technical, historical and 1st-person aspects of the food industry in Maine.
Classes moved out of the bars and into local restaurants. We welcomed chefs like David Ross of 50 Local to teach hands-on pasta and gnocchi making, and Chef Pierre Gignac of Ocean to demonstrate French techniques like Coq au Vin and Lobster Thermidor. Today, the talent roster continues to grow.
Table’s dedicated space (brick-and-mortar!) will open during Christmas Prelude on 12/4/15 in Kennebunkport with a pop-up dinner from Chef Justin Walker and his team from Earth. A Prelude Doughnut Shoppe will follow (12/5/15 from 11-4pm) complete with elves, wreaths and garlands that sells brioche doughnuts that rival any of the freshest, hottest and crispiest pastries you have ever had.
Table is a unique brand that brings life to the passions that sustain the food culture of Maine. I hope to see you all at a cooking and mixology class to share what that food passion has done for me.
This post was inspired and sponsored by Domain.ME, the provider of the personal domains that end in .ME. As a company, they aim to promote thought leadership to the tech world. Domain.ME is unique in that they support a personal digital identity that can be used to grow individual and business ideas. While Domain.ME is not the official domain name of Maine, for those of us who live and work in Maine, the unique identity of a Domain.ME site connects us with a technological powerhouse and to our state’s catchy moniker: ME.