In The News...
Here is an absolutely wonderful short film about our amazing owners.
Take A Road Trip. See The Sights. Eat The Food. Live.
Here is an excellent article written recently by one of our very own dishwashers. . .
Beyond the Walls of a High School
Growing up in a city that's more like a town, the job hunt for high schoolers can be hard, particularly with the addition of having no experience or college education. As for me, I experienced this challenge when my mother constantly demanded, "Caitlin, you need to get a job." I knew she was right, but like most teenagers, I thought getting a job was to make my own money. It is only now that I realize the true intention behind working at a great job as a teenager. Becoming a successful worker requires you to use communication skills, make relationships with others, be able to see good management, understand real world experiences and most importantly, further your education. In a high school, one can certainly learn these great attributes, however, within the context of the real world these attributes will contain much more depth. Depth that one cannot gain within the four walls of a high school. Fortunately for me, my first job gave me just that. I was hired by Chef Melissa Kelly as a dishwasher and prep cook at Primo. What can washing dishes teach you that a high school education cannot? I'll tell you.
My nerves were all over the place when the day had come for my first day on the job. I didn't know anybody or the working environment I had just walked into. Once reaching the "dish pit," I was approached by two men. As they told me each of their names, I had to ask again what they were. The second time they told me, I remembered: Georgi from Bulgaria and Randy from Jamaica. Not having the chance to travel many places in my young life, I had never communicated with individuals from other cultures before. Attending school each day, I had been faced with the same peers and teachers, however now, instead of communicating with the same people everyday, I had to adapt to communicating with others in my new working environment. Primo has offered me a wide cultural working environment that has brought strangers from across the world closer to me than I would have ever experienced.
After working there for a year, I have seen my relationship with my coworkers grow into one big cooking family. We're a family that eats together, sails together, and kills chickens together. Before each shift, "family meal" is made by the chefs with a wide variety of different food choices. On our one day off, all of the employees get together and do something. We may choose to go sailing together or we may gather together to kill chickens for upcoming future plates. Everyone enjoys working together and does their job very well, giving an extra hand if needed. Every employee is important, and what they do helps reflect on the success of the restaurant. In school, however, everyone is working towards their own success. Students rarely come together and work to accomplish a success as one.
Watching my bosses make the working environment a well-managed place has shown me that being well managed is the way to success. Without it, things fall apart, and the work is unorganized. If it wasn't for Chef Melissa Kelly's and Price Kushner's management skills, the restaurant would lack organization. Washing dishes from my viewpoint, I see a consistently silent kitchen where no one talks; they know what they're supposed to be doing. While listening to the orders being made by Chef, the kitchen staff responds by doing what they know is expected. Chef Kelly operates the kitchen, while Price manages the waitstaff. Working together, food is made and successfully brought to the customer.
Throughout one's high school career, you may be successful at learning about concepts in theory, but you may rarely experience concepts in practice. You are taught about the topic, you discuss the topic, and you write about the topic. After doing all this work about a topic, however, it is seldom applied to the real world. For example, your carbon footprint and the environmental impact of humans may be a topic that is explored. Students, however, may never consider this concept outside of school teaching. At Primo, NOTHING gets thrown away in the trash, nothing. There are three buckets labeled pigs, chickens, and regular compost with a list of what can and can't go in them. Scraps from plates and stems from vegetables mainly fill the buckets. Once a bucket is full, it's then brought to either the pigs or chickens as food. Taking into consideration the concept of environmental impact taught in high school, I can clearly see through Primo, how much composting really does make a difference! When putting something that's taught into the real world, it shows ways that concepts can really work.
College is typically the next chapter in life for students after high school. However, how does one find what they like or dislike through concepts rather than practice, which a high school cannot expose you to? While one can certainly learn these attributes in a school, they contain so much more depth when learned within the context of the real world. Taking part in a small town job, exposed me to these contexts, which provided me with a glimpse of what the real world working environment is about. Having the experience and understanding that can be applied from school into the real world helps you flip the next page to a new chapter.
Primo has fostered my growth by strengthening my communication skills, allowing me to make new relationships with others, showing me what good management looks like, helping me apply and understand real world experiences, and most importantly, inspiring me to further my education. What my high school could not offer through real world concepts outside of school, Primo did. With this in mind, it left me thinking; high school should provide students with connections and real world contexts so we have experiences for our future careers. High schools should incorporate what we learn into ways that knowledge can be applied to the real world. By helping students understand and know what it takes to be employed, it will help them practice and learn before going into a career later on. With Primo, I was given a chance to be a part of the well-managed restaurant and take a step into the real world experience outside of school. I have been able to apply what I learn within a working environment and make relationships, aside from just with peers, and connect with other adults that I wouldn't have had an opportunity to do in a high school. So yes, washing dishes can indeed teach you something, and I am so appreciative Chef Melissa Kelly for giving me this experience.
Soil under our nails, and respect on our minds
On a recent Monday when we were closed for dinner, the Primo staff joined together outside the kitchen and the dining room to give attention to our garden under the careful and patient guidance of our gardening team: Evan, Dylan, and Mike.
“A weed or herb?” asked one staff member as he held the broad leaves of a nine-inch tall plant. “Smell it!” another staff answered. Curiosity and occasional pleas for direction peppered the conversations as we used tools and bare knuckles to uproot milkweed and stray plants amongst sweet cicely, thyme, marjoram, asparagus, chives, lemon balm, and mint.
The four acres of land at Primo are home to many varieties of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and animals. It is not home to any chemical fertilizer or weed killers. So at the beginning of the season, the entire staff moves outside and joins together for a morning of dirty fingernails and wheelbarrows of unwanted weeds. The day offers servers, cooks, bartenders, dishwashers, and staff the opportunity to experience and contribute to the land that provides and inspires the Primo philosophy of local food.
Chef Melissa Kelly explains her thoughts on the day:
1. What do you hope that you staff learns or experiences on Primo’s Garden Day?
“Appreciation for what it takes to grow food, nurture the land, and love animals.”
2. When was the first Primo Garden day?
“Probably 8 or 9 years ago.”
3. What could a restaurant team do to get involved with the land that provides their food if they do not have a garden outside their door?
“They should shop at farmer’s markets, co-ops, talk to farmers, and never waste.”
There’s a spot for you at our table,
Super Sweet Eighteen!
The Primo crew is pumped for our eighteenth season by this overview of additions to the Primo family:
1. Evan Woods
The gardens and animals at Primo have a new careful eye watching over them. When asked why he joined the team at Primo, he says “It’s farm to table and everything runs full circle, there isn’t much waste and I like how things are harvested fresh daily”.
2. 15 piglets
Mother’s Day brought fifteen beautiful piglets to a patch of shaded grass on the hill just above the kitchen. The pigs arrived to a lush paddock of greenery punctuated with sturdy tree roots for gnawing and plenty of soil for rooting.
Sweet, briny, and deliciously available at our tables. These oysters hail from the Damariscotta River and are another stunning tribute to the delight of eating locally in mid-coast Maine. We think you’ll taste a difference and the folks at Otter Cove Farm agree “Maine's pristine waters have been the bedrock of the quality embedded in your food.”
4. Summer interns: Shanna, Preethi, Sam, and Ryan
What do Singapore; Poughkeepsie, NY and Camden, ME have in common? They are the original homes of our four summer interns. They arrived with sharp knives, open minds, and eager smiles. We are so excited to have them here.
With flowers in bloom, micro greens sprouting, and growing chicks on the property---there is a lot of beautiful stuff to see. Follow “ChefMelissaK” on instagram for the latest snapshots of a day at Primo.
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7. Front of House Phil
After some hot summer nights scrubbing saute pans in the dish station, Phil demonstrated his ability to be a team player at Primo. This season he keeps one foot in the kitchen as a food runner and right hand for the expo station, but for our sixteenth season he can also be regularly spotted in the dining room. He is a rare breed and a guaranteed smile.
8. Barn Party
Previously used for storage of large farm equipment, our barn underwent a stunning makeover this spring and is ready for your private event. Email firstname.lastname@example.org today to inquire about hosting an intimate dinner or cocktail party in our newly renovated barn that is located just steps away from the garden, greenhouses, and a stunning view of the ocean.
9. Malfadi and Estrella
There are two new shapes of pasta that have made themselves at home on our menu. Both shapes are produced in house using our Italian pasta extruder. The malfadi noodle is a narrow flat noodle with a ruffled edge that recently appeared with pepper pork ragu, spinach, sweet cicely, fresh caciocavallo cheese, pipara peppers, and fennel pollen.
The estrella pasta is a hollow star shaped pasta that was showcased recently with beef Bolognese, charred grape tomatoes, arugula, basil, mint, and pecorino cheese.
10. Featured cocktail
Inspired by seasonal ingredients, the featured cocktail will offer the opportunity to embrace holidays and weekly harvests from the garden. Currently, we are featuring the Sprig: Rosemary infused simple syrup, vodka, lemon juice and soda water.
11. Micro sorrel
Our greenhouses are home to many varieties of herbs and vegetables, including mini versions of each. Evan tells us about micro greens that are primarily, “used for garnish and basically a seed that’s designed to create a miniature version of veggie. They are mature when there is one true leaf showing.”
12. Staff artists featured each month in our dining room
The walls of Primo are home to exquisite pieces of artwork from unique artists intended to pique the visual senses and offer a distinct sense of a place. While there are permanent collections featured and also rotating pieces in collaboration with a local gallery, there are staff members who have contributed their artwork to temporary installations in one of our sunlit dining rooms. Each month offers a new opportunity to view the world through the eyes of a different member of the Primo family with their expressions of photography, painting, drawing, and sculpture.
Lori Schafer- Tuesday June 2nd through Tuesday June 30th
Benjamin Gibbons- Tuesday June 30th through Tuesday July 28th
Nick Turner- Tuesday July 28th through Tuesday August 24th
Mark Kelly- Tuesday August 24th through Tuesday September 21st
Aron Grebner- Tuesday September 21st through Tuesday October 12th
Jake Lavoie- Tuesday October 12th through Tuesday November 10th
Morgan Starr- Tuesday November 10th through Tuesday December 8th
15. New charcuterie item: Sbriciolone
Hard to pronounce but oh so easy to eat, Scbiciolone is a decadently fennel flavored sausage that hits all the right savory notes and still flirts with sweetness and acidity in perfect harmony. We are producing it in-house and are so happy that it has taken up residence on our charcuterie menu offered at the upstairs bar and counter where it can be enjoyed as part of a selection of meats and cheeses, or it can savored solo with a cold beer.
16. Vire-Clesse, Dom. Grands Crays “Le Clos Du Chateau” 2013 France
This stunning summer white wine hails from one of France’s newest appellations, Vire-Clesse located in southern Burgundy. The appellation produces wines made exclusively with 100% Chardonnay grapes and is revered for the low residual sugar and complex flavor. This particular bottle has been described as rich with a nice acidity, perfect for drinking on its own or with food.
There’s a spot for you at our table…
Primo and Chef Kelly were recently the focus of a Chef & Farmer spotlight article on the website farmstarliving.com.
Here is an excerpt from the section about Primo. If you click on the last line (interview with Chef Melissa), it will take you to the wonderful interview with her.
Before it was a restaurant, Primo was a garden with a few hens and a couple of pigs. Now it has grown into a successful restaurant and offers the ultimate farm to table experience. Award-winning Executive Chef Melissa Kelly is the proprietor of Primo and has put her heart and soul into every dish prepared, ensuring the guests have a food experience like no other. There’s a garden, two greenhouses and acres of land behind the restaurant that provides much of the food, tended to by Jacinda Martinez. Primo restaurant isn’t just about good food, Chef Melissa wants every experience to special and unique to all who enter! Read our Chef & Farmer interview with Chef Melisssa
Our very own Chef Melissa Kelly was recently featured along with 17 of her contemporaries in the article "America's Best Female Chefs" on the website thrillist.com. Here is an excerpt from the article:
"Farm to table” is thrown around a lot by chefs who simply talk to farmers. Two-time James Beard-winning chef Melissa Kelly, however, takes the label extremely literally, sourcing the ingredients for Primo’s ever-changing menu from a four-acre farm on which the picturesque restaurant sits. Everything from honey to veggies is harvested on the property. The chickens roost on that very farm, and the pigs that make up the incredible flavors on the joint’s immaculate charcuterie boards wallow right outside.
Not bad for a chef with humble Long Island beginnings, who took a love of Mediterranean cooking with her to a scholarship-driven stint in culinary school that led her to cook everywhere from haute New York destinations to Florida, Colorado, Japan, France, and Barbados. Flavors from her globe-trekking find their way into dishes on the menu, which changes daily. But Kelly still sticks to the simplicity she learned cooking Italian dishes with her Grandma. And she can still be found out in the fields, wrapping her brain -- and her menu -- around whatever looks good and ripe.
To read the article in its entirety, click on the link below.
We are excited to announce that Chef Melissa Kelly will be one of the Celebrity Chefs cooking at the Naples Winter Wine Festival in January of 2015. Click on the link to find out more about this amazing event that has raised over $120 million dollars since it's inception in 2001, which has benefited over 40 non-profit agencies.
Primo was featured in the "Today in Travel" section by popular travel site smarter Travel. Editor, Anna Banas, recently visited Primo and wrote about her visit.
In the Summer 2014 Issue of Zest Maine, Melissa Kelly is one of the featured Chef's in this inaugural issue. the magazine states, "Our first issue is bursting with in-depth profiles of eight chefs with a signature recipe from each." Here is the link to the recipe shared by Chef Kelly and check out the 4 page article inside of Zest Maine Summer 2014.
In the August issue of Bangor Metro 2014 Best Restaurants, Primo was named the "Best Coastal Maine Romantic Restaurant."
In the July issue of bon appetit magazine, Primo is once again featured in an article entitled, "Where to Eat and Drink in Maine, a.k.a. Vacationland U.S.A.", here is what was said:
"In a state where the growing season can be brutish and short, the idea that a restaurant would rely on its own farm is bonkers. Fortunately, chefs here tend to be just that, and their insanity is your reward. Melissa Kelly of Primo in Rockland was one of the first chefs in Maine to do true farm-to-table, starting with a small patch of dirt in 2000 and eventually adding greenhouses and pigs (her charcuterie program rivals any in the country). Arrive an hour before dinner, walk the farm, and get a glimpse of what you will be eating."
In the July 2014 issue of Downeast Magazine, it was announced that Primo was selected as the Readers Choice for Best Romantic Restaurant and Chef Melissa Kelly was voted Best Chef in Maine.