Will there be enough food? Gee, I hope there’s enough. Oh, it’ll be enough. There’s always enough!
He does like to tease, and worry us just a bit, but he didn’t have to think about it this night in October, for a change! Migis Lodge Executive Chef John Strain uncharacteristically was seated for this year’s closing dinner, a first. For 30 years he’s been chopping, stirring, tasting, refining, exploring, shopping, teaching….feeding us. Have a look here, and read innkeeper Tim Porta’s little Ode to Chef. Be sure and click on the photos.
Chef John, 1987
With his 1 week old son Ethan in 1994, and friend Annie.
plotting new kitchen (no turning back now!), 1998
at Closing Dinner, 2013. And there’s son Ethan again! (in yellow.)
Tim Porta, on John Strain:
"Some of you, most of you, have probably recognized that John Strain over here, our chef for 30 years, 30 years just completing, is here at the party. So who’s doing dinner? (Much laughter.) Who’s in the kitchen? (crowd; “Joan!” “Dinah!”) Joan did start here in the kitchen, pregnant in the pantry, with an apron. For $100 a week. [But that’s another story.]
So tonight we have a guest chef, and her crew. They’ve been here all day, and for some meetings prior, to order things and plan what to do.
But I want to tell you a little bit about John. Just quickly; transitioning chefs in an American Plan hotel is very difficult, because people that come year after year expect a certain amount of continuity. They expect it to be sort of like last year. So when Harry Buck, who had been here I don’t know how many years, under the Crocketts, my parents and so forth, retired, I had to get a chef and the first thing I did was do a search.
So I found a chef who came from the Hacienda del Sol in Arizona. Perfect! They’re open in the winter, we’re open in the summer, I checked his references, everything was going to be great. He came here, and, this was 1983. It was a bit of a nightmare. There wasn’t a single waitress who could (I was going to say wait staff; read that ‘waitress’ today) who could leave the kitchen without drying their eyes because he was so miserable, he had them very upset, and also some of the guests were complaining. At the Saturday cookout we had cornbread and the cornbread was so hot they couldn’t eat it because it was full of jalapenos (laughs) and I said “you know, we’re in Maine. We can’t have jalapenos on”…….so on the weekend of the 4th of July I had to let him go.
And the sous chef took over. And he was a great cook but I spent most of the time, the rest of the summer, in the kitchen doing the ordering and trying to keep up with everything. And, so, it’s hard. It’s hard if you have to go looking for new chefs, and when you’re seasonal it’s also difficult because you’re only open six months or whatever and what do you do with The Chef? So for a while it worked out, but back to the 4th of July, when I had to let the chef go, from the Hacienda del Sol. So, fast forward to 1984, I went down to Florida, I met John, who was at the Colonnades on Singer Island in Palm Beach Shores, doing a great job. We talked, we went to dinner at Cafe du Parc, as I recall, on Route 1. We talked, and he agreed to come up, and for thirty years I have not had to go looking for another chef. So it’s been fabulous! I would say he’s probably added five years to my life. (Big laughs. Big applause.) Thank you, John, for thirty years. It’s been a run that I think has been successful and I don’t know how many more you got in ya, but I’ll take all you got.”
Thanks, John, for thirty years of Standing the Heat (because if you can’t, after all….), and for all the pounds we’ve struggled on and off with through the years (character building!) while enjoying your creative and delicious work. Salud!
with daughter Mal, 2013
Our reservation office is open all winter, at the same year round number! 207-655-4524. We look forward to hearing from you while your appetite is piqued.