Member Monday: Parlor Ice Cream Co.

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Parlor Ice Cream might be one of Fork’s most Instagram-friendly members, but that definitely doesn’t mean that the cones are too pretty to eat! Parlor’s crazy flavors, like Miso Sweet Corn and Strawberry Matcha, are too delicious to resist. Jacqueline Dole, Parlor’s owner and founder, is a recently relocated Bostonite who finally saw the light and moved north to Portland. She’s been making waves in the foodie community here, scooping at local favorite business like Tandem Coffee and Little Giant. She also does pop-ups, custom wholesale orders, and caters all over New England. We’re so excited to have her at Fork and we urge you to try out her unique flavors and treats as soon as you can.

What was your first job?
I worked at CVS! I was 16 years old.

How did you get involved with food work?
I moved to the White Mountains for a summer, and the only job that was hiring was Ben & Jerry’s. I started as a manager, but one day our cake decorator quit, so I had to jump in and I made some pretty ugly cakes. I actually loved it, and ended up applying to culinary school!

What made you decide to start Parlor Ice Cream Company?
I figured out that I didn’t want to work in restaurants anymore - I hated the schedule and how employees were treated - so I decided I should try something on my own. So I decided to work at a few places that had good ice cream programs, and I ended up being a production manager for an ice cream shop. People kept requesting the flavors that I made! I realized there were no custom ice cream options in Boston so I thought custom wholesale collaborations would be a cool niche. That was in February of 2016.

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
I love making ice cream more than anything in the world. It’s also definitely been amazing to get to meet so many small business owners.

Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s. She’s really cool because she’s a scrappy badass who’s been doing this for years now and she’s gone from having one store to having stores across the country. She’s overcome challenges and is still growing her business every day.

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
Take-out. I’m really into Thai food.

Member Monday: Steindry

Jenn and Adam Stein, of Steindry, are the hardest working couple in the jerky business. Some days, they're in the Fork kitchen as early as 4AM, trying to beat the rush and complete a 14-hour day in time for dinner. You can usually find them slicing local cuts of beef, marinading them in craft beer and coffee, running 4 dehydrators at a time, and still making it in time for work at Foundation Brewing Co (where Adam runs the tasting room). If you haven't tried their delicious jerky yet, there's one for everyone in the family: beef marinated in coffee or beer, fruit jerkies made with local berries, and even dehydrated dog treats. You can order right from Steindry's website, or catch them around town at local breweries and markets!

What was your first job?
My first job was working at a farm stand - it was at Schoolhouse Farm, in Warren. I was 11 years old. Child labor! My mom is very proud.

It sounds like you’ve always been interested in food work!
I used to spend almost everything I made on strawberries during the season. So you can understand why I want to dry them and have them year-round! But really, I've worked in restaurants everywhere from LA to NY and a huge draw to move to Maine was the quality of food available and knowing where it came from.

Where did the idea for Steindry come from?
We used to home brew beer in our tiny NYC apartment, and I hated that we threw out all the spent grain that still had so much nutritional value. I got my first dehydrator to try to make flour from the spent grain, spent an entire weekend on it, and had maybe one tablespoon of flour for the effort. It wasn't a good use of my weekend! I had to justify the space the dehydrator took up in our apartment, so I started making beef jerky, a favorite of Adam's. When I left corporate America, I started experimenting with beer in the recipe and then coffee too. We started testing if you could taste different types of beers in recipes for jerky. And you definitely can - you can taste the difference between a stout and an IPA!

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
All the positive feedback in the community. Also, the creativity of changing up what we’re doing. We’re always changing - for example, we’re about to do a bourbon beef jerky. It’s fun to think up new ideas and actually be able to run with them.

Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
The people at Good To-Go! And the whole beer industry, watching it grow and succeed and how good the stuff they’re making is.

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
Zucchini boats! We have a CSA so we get a lot of it. And my mom has a huge zucchini patch.

Where do you like to eat in Maine?
We like to eat at home - we have a great deck we like to spend time on. And all the food trucks and restaurants in Portland are so good, it's impossible to choose a favorite! I can’t pick just one.

Member Monday: Plucked Fresh Salsa

There's no one quite like Kelly of Plucked Fresh Salsa. She's an energetic spokeswoman for her product, a hardworking mom who puts in long hours at the food processor, and a musician with a killer voice who gets us all singing along to 80's hits in the kitchen. As anyone who has met Kelly knows, she really makes an impression. And her four delicious salsa types are pretty hard to forget as well! Below, Kelly answers our questions about entrepreneurship and salsa life.

What was your first job?
I worked at Rick's Cafe as a busser when I was super young. I had just moved up here from the Boston area. That was also the first place I sang to an audience on stage! I was around 12 or 13.

How did you get involved with food work?
My father worked in restaurants in various positions our entire lives - he then moved into sales in the food industry. I am a lot like him so I guess you could say that I took (sort of) the same path that he did. I love cooking in general though! It reminds me of being in the kitchen with my Mom and Dad.

How did Plucked Fresh Salsa come into being?
Friends I worked with at MEMIC loved my salsa, and they asked me to bring them some. After my son was born, I didn't really have time for all of that. They kept asking, and asking, so eventually I caved. I made them a couple jars of salsa and put it on my Facebook page around 4 years ago. People started emailing me asking me how they could get it. I kept telling them no, but they wouldn't listen. So, my husband and I would make salsa at night when my son was sleeping and we would bring it into work in coolers and deliver jars of salsa door to door on our lunch breaks. I did that for a couple months and figured I could just start a small business and stay at home with my son. And...well...Plucked Fresh Salsa was born.

What's the best part of being an entrepreneur?
I think it's pretty cool to create something from absolutely nothing. I always think it's crazy that people I don't know buy my salsa. I figure it's just my friends or my parents that go in and buy the salsa!

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
I really want to make my parents proud. It’s so cheesy, but it’s true.

Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
I admire all of us - myself included. This business, and being an entrepreneur, is hands down the hardest thing I've ever done. And I've met a lot of people through working with them at Fork. I see the ones that are just starting out and busting their ass, and the ones that have been doing this for years. The ones that are selling and sampling. The food trucks that are prepping and preparing at Fork and then out serving the public. There is a lot of heart that goes into it. It's sort of like we're one big family - one big, bad ass family.

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
I'm all about the food prep now. I have 2 kids and a husband, and everyone is on different schedules. So I do a lot of food prep on Sunday, and I also order through Carr Eats!

Where do you like to eat in Maine?
Um, let's be honest - it's more like, where do you like to go for a couple drinks? My favorite place right now is Bingas in Windham. Great food, great drinks, and every single person who works there is awesome.

Member Monday: AliciaBars

Maybe you've seen Alicia Danielson serving up her famous Aliciabars at Williams Sonoma, or maybe you're lucky enough to work at one of the Portland-area companies who buy her gourmet oatmeal bars for employee treats. Though she may not sell in stores, her bars are enormously popular - one of Portland's best-kept food secrets - and are available to order via her Facebook page. Here in the kitchen, we live for the days when Alicia has leftovers from a sampling event. Check out her story below!

What was your first job?
I worked for Deering Ice Cream as a waitress - I was in high school. I’ve always been into food! I think knowing that you can always make more when you’re a waitress, it really put a bug in me to work hard. If I only made a set salary every year, I’d be bored.

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
My passion for making my Aliciabars motivates me, of course, but what really motivates me is when someone samples the bars for the first time and says, wow these are good! And then becomes one of my "followers" who attends my samplings and orders often for themselves and others.

Money motivates me secondarily...I've heard it said,"Follow your passion and the money will follow." My business continues to grow but at my own pace, which I enjoy.  This gives me the flexibility to spend some of the business' profits vacationing with my husband in non-busy times as well the ability to visit our grown children at their resident cities.  I also still have time to teach water aerobics and volunteer for my church.


Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
I’d say Plucked Fresh Salsa and Cape Whoopies, for sure. And Cousins Lobster, they’re kids from Cape - I just think that they're so cool! They were on Shark Tank. I wouldn’t want to go on that show, though - I’m afraid of those guys.

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
I’m Italian, so probably pasta. And fish.

Where do you like to eat in Maine?
We LOVE Solo Italiano! The owner, Angelo, is a friend and he did a great job of recruiting a chef from Genoa, Italy who makes the best pesto and homemade pasta in Portland!

Member Monday: Mill Cove Baking Co.

Nina Murray of Mill Cove Baking Company is making a big splash in the Portland specialty food world. She's a native Midcoast Mainer, a longtime baker and an expert in making the tastiest, crunchiest crackers around. Her crackers can now be found at stores all around Greater Portland (check her website for specifics!) and we couldn't be more proud. If you haven't tried these highly addicting delights yet, make sure you pick some up soon!

What was your first job?
I worked at the Veggie Corner in Harpswell, it’s a mom and pop produce shop. That’s where I was allowed to bake the first products ever in my life. Vi [Violet Tetrault, the co-owner], she just knew I wanted to bake - maybe she could see the glint in my eye. She said, ‘Why don’t you come back and bake a batch of blueberry muffins?’ I added the blueberries too early and made the whole batter blue. She was nice about it, though. It was my first job AND my first baking mistake.

What’s a memorable food experience you’ve had?
I used to work on a sailboat as a cook, and everything in comparison to that seems easy. On a boat, you have to use the same ingredients you bought five weeks ago for an entire trip, plus your stuff moves around and falls and tries to kill you! You have to provision six weeks worth of food for 35 people in ports around the world where people might not speak English - that was one of the biggest challenges. Sometimes they would bring me ingredients I had never seen before!

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
Total stupidity. No, I know it sounds cliche, but being able to be my own boss. You’re working just as hard as you would for someone else but it’s so much more satisfying to be exhausted at the end of the day because you pushed yourself to be exhausted. In the food industry, you can really push yourself and try new things. It’s been really amazing to learn how to do all this, and exercise my brain muscle. Also, it’s really gratifying when you talk to people who have tried and liked your product. I’m like, I can’t believe they allow my stuff to sit on the shelf!

Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
Definitely Krista Desjarlais of The Purple House. Also, the Elmore Mountain Bread guys in Vermont, it’s just two of them and they have such a positive outlook and they support the local grain economy and are so passionate about what they do. I went to visit and they talked to me in the middle of their bake for hours. They’ve brought a lot of industry to their area. And Peter Reinhardt, he’s one of my favorite bread bakers and authors. He wrote the Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
Definitely Bao Bao or Woodford Food & Beverage. Their burger is so good and their cocktails are so amazing. Also, we cook a lot. People assume that those who cook all day don’t want to cook when they get home, but I find it gratifying.

Member Monday: Falafel Mafia

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Like the regular mafia, the Falafel Mafia is a family affair. Originally a Rhode Island vegetarian restaurant started by David Gardner in the '90's, the Falafel Mafia now operates a food truck serving up some of the best vegetarian food in the Portland area. Dylan and Cam Gardner, David's sons, have taken the helm of the family business and, along with their business partner Samantha Duggan, are taking the food truck scene by storm. They chatted with us about the unique food business they're running and how it all came about.

What was your first job?
Dylan: Making falafel and portioning dough for pita. I was probably 8.
Cam: Making falafel, or washing lettuce. I would say I was 7. It was whenever we could convince our parents to take us with them instead of leaving us with the babysitter.

Did you always know that you wanted to work in food?
D: No, when I was a teenager my dad said he would teach me how to cook because it was valuable, but he wanted me to go to college and get a “real” job. According to him, I never had a real job, but he’s the one that taught me how to work the line!

Your business was originally started by your dad, who was making falafel in the 80’s. That seems ahead of the curve!
C: He was ahead of the curve with a lot of things.
D: They were using flowers as garnish in the ‘80s. His restaurant was in Providence, a vegetarian restaurant, and it was also ahead of the curve. The menu was incredible - vegetarian wellington, things like that.

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
D: Being here at Fork! Working with a community and seeing how businesses can grow and put the food scene in the hands of the local community, seeing more power in the hands of young cooks. It’s about giving people a taste of what real Maine food can be like, not just lobster and seafood. There’s so much more to it than that.
C: For me, the motivation comes from the reaction that we get. People are like, ‘this is so good!’
D: We get a lot of people who say it’s the best sandwich they’ve ever had.

Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
D: Yotam Ottolenghi. I love his work. I wanna say MOFGA, even though they’re more of an organization, because I think what they’re doing for food is really incredible. I think the food community needs to be more sustainable. Another is Taim Falafel in New York and Falasophy in L.A. - we’ve been watching them for years.

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
D: It’s falafel, but I’m not going to say that.  I eat a lot of Micucci’s pizza.
C: For me, it’s probably tacos.

Where do you like to eat in Maine?
D: Red’s Eats. I mean, come on. Saeng Thai, I eat so much of that. The Otherside Deli. I like simple, easy food.

What’s your food philosophy?
D: I think street food is really important because it gives people more of a connection to what they’re eating. I’m tired of fine dining - I think it disconnects people from food. There are some restaurants where that isn’t true but I think that we should go back to an older, more simple form of eating.
C: Making everything that we sell because it’s just how we were shown to do it.
D: And obviously going local, sustainable, organic.

Want to find the Falafel Mafia truck? Follow them on Instagram here!

Member Monday: Immigrant Kitchens

Lindsay Sterling of Immigrant Kitchens loves to share. Sharing stories, sharing recipes, and sharing time with people from all over to gather around a great meal. Her cooking classes, which take place at Fork Food Lab, expose participants to cultures and dishes that they've never before experienced - the recipes come from all over the world, and are taught to her by New Americans. Lindsay is an experienced chef, and it shows in her professional and thorough classes. She told us about her background in fine dining, and how Immigrant Kitchens came to be. Enjoy!

What was your first job?
I was a waitress in a brew pub in Wisconsin. I was in high school. It wasn’t, like, fine dining - it was hamburgers. But I learned that I would rather be in the kitchen!

How did you get involved with food work?
I was living in San Francisco and had just graduated from Middblebury with an English degree. I had worked in restaurants before, but at the time I was working in advertising and wanted to get into cooking. One of my roommates threw a party one night, and I chatted with one of her friends who was a sous chef at Stars, Jeremiah Tower’s restaurant. I said I wanted to shift into cooking and he told me they were doing a tryout for an assistant cook opening. I was like, am I ready for the big time now? We worked on my knife skills for a few sessions, but I went in and chopped the tip of my thumb off in the tryout. I had to go to the emergency room! So I came back a few days later, with my thumb in a bandage and my tail between my legs, and they let me try again. They let me have an extended tryout where I finally proved myself.

What’s the story of your business?
As I gained more experience in fine dining - I liked to go out to eat and think about how the food was made - I always loved to go to immigrant restaurants. I loved the strong flavors and the challenge of figuring out how it was done. I spent a lot of time in an Ethiopian restaurant. I loved it so much and I had no idea what was in the food! So I decided after a period of time in fine dining that I really wanted to pursue my passion for other styles of food. I pitched a newspaper column to the Portland Phoenix that I would do this as a column - learn how to make dishes with immigrants. Soon after, I started teaching the cooking classes. The foods are just so fun and I want to share them with people.  

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
It’s really a combination of the immigrant’s stories of how the came to be living and cooking here, which is fascinating and worth sharing, and then on top of that there are these delicious foods that are also worth sharing. I feel compelled to pass on these stories and recipes because they’re simply so amazing. I can’t stop because it’s so fascinating and good.

Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
I admire food entrepreneurs who make me swoon with their great flavors and textures: Empire, Ottos, Shwarma, Falafel Mafia, Sur Lie, and Asmara to name a few! And I admire the farmers who dedicate their lives to growing the best tasting food with little to no harm to the environment. Six River Farm always inspires me at the market at Crystal Spring Farm in Brunswick. Their organic produce is magical.

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
Gallo Pinto - it’s a Nicaraguan beans and rice dish that is so easy and fast and delicious. I like to eat vegetarian as frequently as I can. I like incorporating vegetarian meals for environmental reasons.

Where do you like to eat in Maine?
At the home of someone who loves to cook, preferably with ingredients straight from the garden or farm. The food’s always great, and the connections made while cooking together and sharing stories make me feel grounded and connected in a rare and beautiful way. I hope my cooking classes rejuvenate people in a similar way, through the process of creating something beautiful and interesting together, and sharing the results by candlelight.

Member Monday: Cape Whoopies

Marcia Wiggins of Cape Whoopies is the hardest working hype woman in the game. Her unbridled enthusiasm and support for everyone in the Fork kitchen (as well as everyone in the Portland food scene) keeps us all going when the going gets tough. Besides her verbal marketing skills, Marcia is also a talented baker and team leader (ask her about her crew of Whoopettes!) who produces hundreds of Maine's finest whoopie pies each week. Her pies are sold in various shops in the Portland area, as well as online through the e-retailer Goldbely. Check out her story below!

What was your first job?
Working for Grayline sightseeing tours. I had a desk in a hotel lobby in DC. Every day after school I sat at the desk at told tourists what to see in DC. I did that for 3-4 years in high school. The next job I had was working on a fundraiser for the RNC. Then I worked for a senator for a number of years.

How did you get involved with food work?
In high school, preparing for college, I thought I would be a painter. I did a lot of paintings, won a lot of competitions, and did the whole gallery thing, and I realized, I’m a very creative person but I didn’t like the people that were coming to buy the artwork. So I still maintain that the best thing I have going is that I’m very creative, but I shifted my view and went to food. I wanted to share with a broader audience.

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
Not just one thing. The driving force is that I absolutely love being creative and sharing with other people. Those things I would be doing no matter what.

Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
There’s so many, and for so many reasons. It goes in every possible direction. My son in law, who’s an amazing chef and can put together combinations of flavors that are totally unexpected and unbelievable. I find him amazing. I love Tyler Florence! For the longest time I thought, what an amazing chef. He had a show called Recipe 911, and he would come to your house and teach you how to make whatever you wanted to make. I love Bobby Flay and the way that he communicates what he’s doing and how he seems totally comfortable whether he has a big success or a failure. I aspire to that ‘sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t’ attitude.

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
It’s a chicken piccata offshoot. A seared meat with sherry and lemon juice and onion and garlic. I add vegetables and olives, capers, anything.

Where do you like to eat in Maine?
If I were left to my own devices, David’s. Both locations are good. Also, Street and Company. Every time I go I get scallops in Pernod and it’s just so good. I keep trying to order something else and I can’t! The atmosphere is very cozy and I love it. I even love walking down Wharf Street to get there.

What inspires your creativity with your product?
My husband was an airline pilot for 30 years, so I was able to go to a lot of places and try a lot of wonderful food. In every city there’s something they’re very proud of, that’s on every corner, and each city has a different thing that they do. In Brussels, it’s a waffle. Here, it’s whoopie pies. So jumping into whoopie pies was really difficult in a place where whooppie pies are king. But it created a challenge for me of ‘if you can do it here, you can really do it.” So I was off and running!

News: Fork Food Lab Merges with Foodworks

Fork Food Lab Merges with Foodworks

Maine food incubator strengthens services with national industry leader

PORTLAND, Maine — June 12, 2017 — Fork Food Lab, the 6,000-square-foot commercial kitchen incubator in Portland’s West Bayside neighborhood, has merged with Foodworks, based in Brooklyn, New York.

Founders Neil Spillane and Eric Holstein opened Fork Food Lab on Sept. 27, 2016 with a vision to boost Maine’s food economy by helping local entrepreneurs scale up their companies. Fork Food Lab provides enough space for 45 food businesses and currently services 34 members who have access to state-of-the-art equipment, direct feedback from customers through an adjacent tasting room, as well as marketing and legal advice. Current members make anything from pies to almond milk, and salsa to coffee. 

"We are very excited to partner with a company that shares in our vision for a more robust local food system where entrepreneurs with creative recipes can strategically grow,” said Spillane, who will stay on as General Manager of Fork Food Lab. “This merger will allow Fork Food Lab companies to expand distribution into the large New York market and leverage supplier discounts that are available to current Foodworks producers."

Foodworks is a 10,000-square-foot kitchen in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn with a similar goal of helping food startups to grow. The space currently hosts 110 member companies. One of the key­­ benefits of a partnership with Foodworks is access to their technology team. This arm of the company focuses on developing software to help streamline communication and sourcing for members.

“Foodworks is incredibly excited about merging with Fork Food Lab. In spending time with Eric and Neil over the last few months, it was obvious how values- and vision-aligned our teams were,” said founder and CEO of Foodworks, Nick Devane. “We deeply admire everything they, together with their community, have built thus far. We look forward to learning from each other and continuing to build towards changing the face of entrepreneurship in the food space.”

Fork Food Lab will remain at its current location in West Bayside with no immediate plans to change names. The merger is official as of Monday, June 12th.

Member Monday: Bubbe & Bestemor's Baking Company

Bubbe & Bestemor are two fictional grandmas symbolizing the "Ashke-Nordic" theme of Audrey Farber's baked goods. Audrey Farber is an actual young woman who makes the meanest rye bread east of New York City. More about her: Audrey holds a Master's degree in Linguistics, spent the past week at a historic cookbook conference at Radcliffe, bikes faster than most people drive, and consistently produces extremely high-quality baked goods made with love and an eye for tradition. She describes Bubbe & Bestemor as "A project about exploring historic foodways in the modern era, a preservation effort, and a cool experiment in making stuff."

We sat down for a chat about her favorite spots in the city and her "food pet." After you read, check out her menu for this week and order for pickup at Fork on Friday! 

What was your first job?
Beal’s Ice Cream on Veranda Street.

How did you get involved with food work?
It’s practically the only work I’ve ever done. Food is life, man.

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
Sheer willpower. And my challah is the best.

Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
Anybody claiming their own identity through the food they're making.

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
What season? Am I at home? Something with a s***-load of CSA veggies.

Where do you like to eat in Maine?
Lib’s.

For which meal?
Afternoon snack obviously, or first dinner. Or dessert.

What's an early food memory you have?
When I was 5, my mom let me invent my own cookie recipe so I basically just put a bunch of cocoa powder, baking soda, flour and butter in a bowl. When I baked them, they were so gross, and I made a huge mess. 

What's the last thing you ate?
An apple, and before that, I made chard hand pies with hot sauce on them. (Ed. note: Hand Pies are not for sale.)

Do you have any food pet peeves?
No, but I have food pet - my starter. She doesn't have a name but she is a female (technically asexual, though, because microbes). I've had her since January, I got her from a friend, but now from all the feeding she's her own creature with her own idiosyncrasies. She likes to Netflix & Chill.

Member Monday: Tortilleria Pachanga

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Have you ever tried a fresh, warm corn tortilla? There isn't anything like it. As a Spanish teacher who has travelled extensively in Mexico, Tortilleria Pachanga's Lynne Rowe has a deep appreciation for and knowledge of this Mexican staple. Her version is made with exclusively locally-grown, organic heritage Maine corn. Here at Fork, we enjoy them with some avocado, Plucked Fresh Salsa, and a yolky fried egg. It's a breakfast (or lunch, or dinner) of champions.

Lynne shared with us a little bit of her (interesting) work history, and the entrepreneurs that she has looked up to during her small business journey.

What was your first job?
I did bladder and bowel care for kids with Spina Bifida after my first year of college. I have a t-shirt that says “Bladder and Bowel Care ‘84.” I gave a good enema.

How did you get involved with food work?
My grandfather owned a diner, one of those diner cars, in MA. I started waiting tables in college, I had a little food business that I ran out of an Irish bar in Boston - I ran it like a concession within the bar. It was the early ‘90s, and nachos were big. I also made a Guinness beef stew.

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
I think it's making and creating something! I love that I was just with the farmer who grew the corn and we were unloading it together. I think being there from the point of growing [the corn], and then making an ancient product in a modern way, then creating wholesome food that families eat, that’s what motivates me. If it were the money I’d be out of here.

Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
Diane Kennedy, she’s sort of Mexico’s version of Julia Child. But there really are a lot. I think that Alison and Matt [of Standard Baking Company] have said things that I’ve held onto. Amado Ramirez Leyva, who owns Itanoni in Oaxaca, has been the most influential because he’s helping save corn and he helped me to source local corn here. His restaurant is Alice Waters’ favorite restaurant in the world!

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
We usually make a big salad with grilled chicken (or tortillas with refried beans and avocado!). 

Where do you like to eat in Maine?
At my friends’ houses.

Member Monday: The Marshmallow Cart

Madison Gouzie is NOT a hot dog stand. Though tourists in downtown Portland often mistake him for one, in reality Madison is the purveyor of one of the city's most unique mobile food operations: The Marshmallow Cart. His streetside roasted s'mores are the perfect treat to keep your energy up as you shop the Old Port or as a sugary nightcap after dinner. He's also a former Subway Sandwich Artist and he loves a good clam cake, as he shared with us in this interview.

What was your first job?
I worked at Subway Sandwich Shops in Westbrook. I was a sandwich artist in high school. I was there until I went to college. My sandwiches looked the best - I took pride in making it look awesome.

How did you get involved with food work?
I was always in food work. After college I moved to Boston and picked up a bar gig at Legal Seafoods, which is corporate but has a great training program. I learned a lot about service. I attribute them to being able to execute what I do.

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
The ability to connect with the community. It’s fun to be on the street - I’m part information booth, part marshmallow man. It’s really fun. I feel like I have a pulse on the city. People think I’m a hotdog stand. 

Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
The inventor of the milk and cookies shot. He also invented the cronut. A milk and cookies shot is a cookie shaped like a shot glass with a chocolate rim and you pour milk inside of it. His name is Dominique Ansel. Here’s why he’s awesome - he has fun with his food.

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
Definitely I revert, I need my beans and franks. Like, red hot dogs sauteed in the pan with a little molasses and some B&M beans. Plus you gotta have the brown bread from a can.

Where do you like to eat in Maine?
My whole life I’ve loved al fresco. If it’s wintertime and they have a seat outside, I’d still sit there. So, anywhere with an outdoor patio. I love people-watching. In the summertime, I will drive wherever. On that note, though, I just drove to Biddeford to get a clam cake burger with cheese at Rapid Ray's. There’s only 3 places to get them: Rapids Ray's, Harmon’s Lunch and Don’s Lunch. I love all three with equal affection.

Member Monday: Renee by the Bay

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Renee Dolley is the most enthusiastic woman in the pie business. Though she works a regular full-time gig as a lab technician, on her days off you can find her at Fork, filling the kitchen with the smells of rhubarb hand pies for her business, Renee by the Bay. She's also a huge believer in sharing, sabotaging any chance a Fork member might have of dieting (let's be honest - we weren't trying that hard). Most of all, she's one of our kindest and friendliest members. In this interview, she dished about her origins as a blueberry picker and brought in her most influential cookbook to show us. 

What was your first job?
It might have been raking blueberries. I guess they have machines that rake them now, so I’m really dating myself. I was in junior high. It was hard work! We’d go up a dirt road on this bus and rake ‘em through the rows and we got paid by the pound. You’d bring your two 5-gallon pails and you’d rake all day and I remember you’d eat blueberries till your teeth turned blue!

How did you get involved with food work?
It sort of found me. When I was growing up in Central Maine there weren’t foodies. It was the 70s and 80s, when eggs were bad and margarine was big. My mom made bread, but still I never had the idea that food could be good until I moved to Portland in the mid-90’s. I think Aurora Provisions had just opened. I was like, what’s all this? Then, I started this thing called ‘Pie Night’ and people would say, you oughta have your own business. I thought they were just being kind. Fast forward to a little over a year ago, my friend Caroline goes, ‘Renee, this place is coming to town called Fork Food Lab,’ and I had thought I couldn’t have my own business because I worked full time. When I found out I could have a part-time membership, I just went, OH!

What did you bring in to share with us? Why?
This is what made me realize that baking really was a science. I made my crust from this recipe for years but it was half shortening and I realized I had to take shortening out of my crust. I still refer to this book even though my crust recipe is different now. I got it as a Christmas gift 10 years ago.

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
I love baking. I love talking about it. I never thought I would be comfortable in a room full of people sampling, but when we have these markets or when I go to Harvest on the Harbor, I can talk all day and I don’t mind the crowds and it’s so different than normal. I just love being a part of it. It’s like an extension of who I am, it’s so authentic. You think you do all the right things, go to college, get the degree, but I still had this nagging feeling like, this isn’t it. Now I feel like that voice doesn’t talk to me anymore.

Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
Alison Pray and what she’s done for baking. Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. When you combine everything in terms of ease of recipe, accessibility, respect for your time, her writing is so witty, it draws you right in. Taking everything into consideration it’s probably the best food blog out there. It’s so authentic, what she does.

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
I really learned to be good at rice bowls because they’re quick. It’s a blank canvas, just like a pie crust. You can put anything you want into it!

Where do you like to eat in Maine?
During Restaurant Week I went to Solo Italiano. I’m not a pesto person but their gnocchi changed my life. Also, I recently went to Thanh Thanh Two and had their beef salad. It says rare, but it’s raw. It’s so good.

Member Monday: Joyful Spirit

Ellie Tucker, AKA Joyful Spirit, has done just about every job in the food world. Currently, she is a Fork member who uses the kitchen to create her delicious and nutritious Box Cottage Granola Bits and other tasty treats made with wholesome, local ingredients. She's a seasoned chef, a voice of wisdom in the Fork kitchen, and she puts together a mean platter of bruschetta for our catering team. In this interview, we chatted about Ellie's food history.

What was your first job?
I had a newspaper route when I was 11. I biked around and kept maybe 25 newspapers in my bike basket and I would deliver them on my road. This was back when the PPH did two editions - there was no social media, no computers, so there was enough news for a daytime and a nighttime edition!

How did you get involved with food work?
I had summer jobs but my first serious food job was in Sugarloaf. Like everyone else, I had this romantic notion of working in a restaurant so when I moved to Sugarloaf, I got a job as a cook at the Sugarloaf Inn. It was supposed to be a temporary move, but I ended up staying for 15 years! The first time I made chowder at the Inn, it was so bad that the chef sent my sister in to tell me that it was awful. I asked around for help, because I’m a huge believer in collaboration, and to this day I think I make a pretty good chowder. I ended up even opening a deli around there.

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
Having people appreciate my product, and being able to offer an alternative to what is out there - a healthy alternative.

Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
Some fellow Fork Food Lab members. Other small business owners who have had their own struggles.

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
Whatever I can throw in a salad bowl. Hot, cold, whatever. I hate dishes! I have a wooden bowl that I’ve had since my Sugarloaf days. I put whatever I have around in my salad bowl and add balsamic vinegar or some Plucked Fresh Salsa. My other favorite is Lynne’s (Tortilleria Pachanga) tortillas with cheese and avocado.

Where do you like to eat in Maine?
Places with homemade foods! I love to eat on someone’s back porch overlooking the ocean. My brother is a lobsterman so I think one of the best meals I had was on the back of his broken-down pickup truck.

Member Monday: Carr Eats

Christina Carr is feeding the people of Portland, one Crossfit gym at a time. Chris' business, Carr Eats, consists of "real, prepared meals that are healthy, taste great, and are fork-ready." Once a week, Chris dominates the Fork kitchen with the amazing smells of paleo-friendly proteins and roasting vegetables, preparing hundreds of meals. An avid Crossfitter, she then distributes the meals to gyms in the Portland area or leaves them for pickup at Fork Food Lab. She sat down with us to chat about how food businesses run in her family! 

What was your first job?
I think my first job was at a breakfast place. I assisted the breakfast in the kitchen and in between I would run out to the front and scoop ice cream. It was called Maxy’s in Camp Ellis. I was pretty young, like the youngest you could be - I think it was 14!

Even earlier, I had another job. My parents wouldn’t allow us to have dogs when we were little, but my neighbors had a springer spaniel named Sadie, and I offered to clean their house so that I could play with their dog. I think I was 9 or 10. I would go over with soap and windex and scrub the counter and play with the dog.

How did you get involved with food work?
My family has always owned restaurants in the Saco/Biddeford area. My family runs a sandwich shop in Biddeford. My sister and I used to play at the sandwich shop. We had a little kid picnic table and we’d set it up and sit there and greet people.

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
It’s very rewarding for me to provide a service that actually helps people. In previous jobs, I didn’t feel satisfied in that regard and this fills that void. It’s good to hear people say they love something or that it’s convenient or that they feel better about themselves. That part is really satisfying. It’s great to see people use my meals as a catalyst for making healthier choices.

Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say my family. My grandmother is probably one of the biggest workhorses ever. She doesn’t work at the family business anymore but she used to pit olives on a stool until she was like, 85. I’m fascinated by small businesses, I love when families are involved with restaurants because it was a part of my childhood and now I have this food obsession.  

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
Carr Eats leftovers! I basically eat what I don’t sell - I make extra of everything. If it’s a Monday-Friday, I'm eating some sort of salad. A handful of mixed greens or spinach with Carr Eats leftovers dumped on top. There’s no waste - I can’t throw things away.

Where do you like to eat in Maine?
Right now Eventide is one of my favorite restaurants because I don’t cook a lot of seafood for myself. My boyfriend’s cousin is the kitchen manager there, so we go and eat kitchen creations and drink dirty martinis. I love going for cocktails at Round Turn Distillery, too!

Member Monday: Fyood Kitchen

Maddie Purcell of Fyood Kitchen wants you to play with your food. Participants in Fyood's "Iron Chef meets Paint Night" events are encouraged to improvise, get creative, and trust themselves as they create sweet and savory dishes using a basket of mystery ingredients chosen by Maddie herself. Fyood's events, held at Fork Food Lab and all over the state of Maine, are messy, lively, and tons of fun. We sat down with Maddie for an interview, and asked her to bring an item that has been essential to her crazy foodie journey.

What was your first job?
I was a camp counselor at Bowdoin Day Camp in Brunswick!

How did you get involved with food work?
My parents started food internet businesses when I was little. There was one called Ucook.com, and it was the first website to catalog recipes online and let you search by which ingredients you had. So I’ve been around food forever, but not in a restaurant setting. Now, I just love eating. I watched a lot of chopped one year, I spent a lot of time cooking with friends, and realized this is what I wanted to do.

What did you bring in to share with us? Why?
I brought one of our mystery baskets. We put 4 mystery ingredients that participants have to use with their dish. It helps people start to think creatively. A lot of the time when we’re cooking, we’re using our imaginations, but we think of it in a sort of routine, chore-oriented way too often. This inspires you to cook more adventurously and use your imagination.

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
The feedback from participants in terms of how much fun they have and also that it changes the way they think about food and cooking a little bit. People will tell me they took things home from the grocery store that they wouldn’t have used before. One participant said he plates his dinners at home differently because he got feedback at Fyood that his dish needed more artistic quality. A lot of people come into Fyood events a little intimidated, which I actually like because that means they’re challenging themselves. However, 96% of dishes at events come out well or really well, so it inspires a confidence in people. It’s an empowering experience to share.

Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
There are a lot! At Fork it’s inspiring to be around people who have started distributing widely but also the people who are finding innovative ways to grow their business, like Chris Carr.

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
I guess it would be a stir-fry with a bunch of vegetables, egg on it, and some noodles maybe.

Where do you like to eat in Maine?
Everywhere. My favorites are Pai Men and Miyake, Boda, Izakai Minato is bomb, and Ramen Suzukiya. Also, my friends’ kitchens!

Member Monday: Anchor & Rose Apothecary

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Every food lab needs a trained herbalist, and Fork's own Katie Munn, of Anchor & Rose Apothecary, is a spectacular one. Katie is a Certified Clinical Herbalist & Nutritionist from the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism, and her unique set of products and services bring diversity to the Fork community. Katie distributes her own Community Supported Herbalism (CSH) share, makes Bliss Bites, and does herbal consulting. In a few weeks, she's even hosting a Plant-Based Brunch right here at Fork. We sat down to chat about her story!

What was your first job?
I worked at Dunkin Donut’s when I was 15 in Skowhegan, Maine. It was fun, I’d bring doughnuts to homeroom and my friends all loved it.

How did your business come about?
I’m from Maine, but I went to herbal school in Colorado and moved back here afterward. One day, I just went to the beach and the name ‘Anchor and Rose’ came to me. I knew I wanted to meet with clients and make and sell herbal products but it didn't really solidify until I had the name.

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
The desire to bring herbal medicine in the mainstream. I also want to bring herbs and healthy foods into people’s diets and lifestyles.

Who are some herbal or food entrepreneurs that you admire?
Deb Soule of Avena Botanicals is doing wonderful work with biodynamic herbal farming. Kathy Langelier of Herbal Revolution is doing amazing infused tonics and herbal shrubs.

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
Lately I’ve been on been a lentil kick! So I sautee up some garlic and onion, kale, brussels sprouts, and add some lentils, turmeric, and ginger. I guess it’s a sautee, or a stir fry, I’m not sure.

Where do you like to eat in Maine?
Lately it’s been Pai Men! The ramen has been so great in the winter. Recently, I went to Empire and had forgotten how good it is. The sauteed green beans are amazing!

Member Monday: Dirigo Coffee

Dirigo Coffee is no ordinary coffee company. Originally Maker's Mug, a mobile coffee cart that owner Jacob Perry built from scratch, Dirigo wants to do much more than caffeinate you. They use educational programming and special events to craft unique coffee experiences that are more memorable than the average cup o' joe. Together with White Cap Coffee, Dirigo keeps the Fork Food Lab awake and alive for those long days in the kitchen. We sat down with Jacob and General Manager Amanda Porter to talk shop. They took it semi-seriously.

What was your first job?
Jacob Perry: Working in a redemption center.
Amanda Porter: Camp Counselor.

How did you get involved with food/beverage work?
Jacob: I got a job delivering pizza because I was tired of sitting behind a desk while working at a TV station. I picked up a job making pizza and found that working in restaurants really spoke to me.  The immediacy of creating something for someone to enjoy was really fulfilling.
Amanda: Jimmy John’s making sandwiches. I was their marketing manager. I would take samples out around town, pass out sandwiches all day.

What did you bring in to share with us? Why?
Jacob: I brought in my food cart. It’s meaningful because it is what has kicked off this whole thing, this entire business. It was like a challenge to myself to try and do something that I had never done before, that I expected to be a side gig - I didn’t expect it to be what it is now.

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
Jacob: Independence.
Amanda: Passion for what we’re doing, a love of coffee and people.
Jacob: All those things and the drive to provide something unique to Portland's growing food scene.

Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
Jacob: I think everybody admires people like David Chang or Anthony Bordain right?  Those guys stay true to themselves while maintaining a love of foods and culture from all across the globe.  Also Rwanda Bean Company: they’re focusing on people first.
Amanda: Rwanda Bean Company, a local example.

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
Jacob: We usually just make a grain and a roasted vegetable to keep it super simple. Or like, a pot pie if I'm hosting friends or family, there is just something so comforting about a pot pie.
Amanda: I’m gonna make curry tonight cause it’s easy and inexpensive and I have a lot of vegetables.

Where do you like to eat in Maine?
Jacob: At home.
Amanda: Pai Men Miyake.
Jacob: Oh yeah, Pai Men. And I like all those old-school seafood places like Ken’s or Clambake or Bayley’s. I like the Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster Company. Anyplace that’s quintessential Maine.

Alt-Milk vs Big Milk: The Fight Over the Future of Dairy

Photo Credit: Rachel Adams

Photo Credit: Rachel Adams

If you’re one of the 49% of Americans who enjoy their morning cereal with plant-based milks rather than the original substance, you may soon notice some different wording on your carton. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-MI) introduced a bill to the Senate in January that proposes “enforcement against misbranded milk alternatives.” Essentially, the bill wants to disallow plant-based milks, such as almond, cashew, hemp, or others, from using the term “milk” at all. The bill suggests that the term “milk” misleads consumers into buying non-dairy milk alternatives, which “do not provide the same nutritional content as real milk.” Those are some big claims, ones that won’t go unquestioned in this fight.

Baldwin, heralding from America’s second-biggest dairy state, is claiming that alternative milks use the term milk at the expensive of the real deal, defined as the “lacteal secretion...from one or more healthy cows.”

(Side note: let’s hope they come up with a better term than “lacteal secretion” for the ad campaign.)

It’s no doubt there’s big money in big milk ($35.5 billion dollars in 2012), and there’s also a precedent for arguments over the usage of dairy terms. New Food Economy points out that when margarine first came on the market, a costly battle ensued over their usage of the term butter, a fight with parallels to today. In this business, words matter.

The resolution of this battle is important, because across the globe, milk consumption is decreasing and alternative milk consumption is increasing. It’s hard not to see this bill as a power move by the dairy industry, one which may or may not pay off. Maine is a part of that dairy industry - one-fifth of Maine’s agriculture is made up of it - but we also have plenty of plant-based milk, too.

We’re not in favor of any milk over another. There’s enough room in the dairy aisle for everyone! But we are partial to innovation and entrepreneurship, and the nut milks made by our member The Whole Almond are a great example of industry shifting to meet new demands. Here's hoping we can keep choosing the "milk" we want, regardless of what it's called!

The “All-Natural” Label: What Does It Mean?

The word “natural” in food marketing is a highly ambiguous term, holding very little actual definition. The FDA’s website loosely defines the term as meaning that “nothing artificial or synthetic...has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food.” This is exactly as nonsensical as it sounds.

Consumers, too, are confused: when the FDA last year requested a public comment period on what natural should mean, responses varied from “as close to the Earth as possible” to “only same species breeding” (no all-natural mules for that commenter). It’s clear that no one can agree on exactly what “natural” food is, or should be.

It may seem like a silly policy battle, but as New Food Economy reported this month, there’s money at stake for food producers of all sizes. An Ohio State University study showed not only that consumers were willing to pay more for a peanut butter labelled “all-natural,” but that they were willing to pay even more if a server told them it was all-natural.

As any researcher knows, one study does not a conclusion make. However, it’s interesting to consider how labels impact consumer perception of quality, taste, and value, even if those labels are technically almost meaningless. It’s even more interesting to consider how the delivery of those labels, whether verbal or written, impact that perception as well.

While marketing is a powerful tool, turning a $4.00 jar of peanut butter into a $6.50 jar of “all-natural” peanut butter, that power comes with responsibility. Charging more for a label or word is not a sustainable business model, nor does it buy consumer goodwill.

Hopefully, the FDA is working to add some weight behind the term natural. In the meantime, Fork and our entrepreneurs are committed to transparency in the production process. One benefit of being a small food producer is the ability to connect with consumers to mitigate confusion! At events like our Spring Market on March 18th, you can ask questions directly to our members about their methods and ingredients. They - and we - love to chat!

Click here for more information about our Spring Market - we hope to see you there!