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.