Photograph by David Murray
NAME: Jonathan Cartwright
Occupation: Grand Chef Relais & Chateaux/Executive Chef
How did you first come to the White Barn?
It was 1995. I was in Switzerland. The phone rang. A chap was on the other end named Laurie Bongiorno. He said, “I know you want to come back to America. Listen, I’ve got this place up in Maine. Have you ever been to Maine?” And I said, “Will you meet me halfway?” And all of a sudden the phone went very quiet. Laurie used to do his business on the piano there [at the White Barn], so you can imagine him saying, “Is this guy crazy? What do you mean by halfway, chief ?” I said, “Well I’ll get to Boston, you pick me up there.” So I flew over here, and hit it off with Laurie from day one.
How has the American palette changed since 1995?
There’s a vast difference. A lot has contributed—gourmet magazines, cooking shows. The habits of the American traveler have changed, too, with the pressures of terrorism—and you need to be pretty affluent to travel abroad. I think people have said, rather than go to Paris for a good meal, why can’t we have that right here? When I first came here, there were probably ten well-known restaurants dotted around the country. Now you go to every little town, it’s got a well-known restaurant with a great reputation and someone with passion in the kitchen.
Tell us about the Asticou Inn.
It’s a unique building just like all of ours are, with a unique history. And in that sense it fits in very well. The location is great. Northeast Harbor is a different market than Kennebunkport, but in a lot of ways similar. Beautiful location, on the edge of Acadia…
What is your comfort food?
I’m English, so I like fish and chips. I like roast beef and Yorkshire puddings for Sunday lunch. I like a good breakfast; English are known for a good breakfast. I like fluffy scrambled eggs, Irish back bacon, black pudding, a grilled tomato.
How do you make fluffy scrambled eggs?
You take good eggs, a good amount of salt and pepper, a little bit of cream, a good amount of butter, stir it on a low heat, don’t rush it, and then just take it off before it’s overcooked.
Red or white?
I’m a very big fan of champagne. If you said it is the last drink you’re going to get, I’d probably take a red. A Rhone varietal, maybe?
Depending on what time of year it was— steamed puddings, treacle sponge pudding. On a summery day, a selection of ice creams.
Is your mother a good cook?
Yes, she’s great at Yorkshire puddings and at making Christmas cake, fruit cake.
Is food Proustian for you?
When I do go back home, it’s usually roast potatoes, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding. Yes, it does bring back childhood memories.
The White Barn Inn | 37 Beach Ave. | Kennebunkport | 207.967.2321 | whitebarninn.com