Walkers Maine will open in just a few months. It’s real, it’s happening, and it’s ours.
Justin Walker, my partner in life and business, and I have worked in some notable restaurants around Maine. We’ve participated in festivals and collaborated with some of the brightest culinary stars, but this is our first endeavor where we have full ownership of our own place, and we are opening it in Cape Neddick, where we live. We came very close to opening our own restaurant two times in the past six or seven years, but it never came to fruition. It seemed like our dream was never going to happen. Right when we’d given up on it, the perfect opportunity presented itself. Taking this huge leap of faith and opening our own restaurant is exciting, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t scary. Doing this in our hometown gives me a sense of peace and encouragement—the roots of my love for food and farm life are so deep there.
As a kid growing up in Maine, my neighbor was a tuna fisherman. When my dad brought home lobsters for dinner, they were from the traps he had just hauled. My dad built our house, and my mom baked with the wildflower honey made by bees we kept in a nearby field. When the leaves fell, we picked cranberries at my grandmother’s house.
As a student at the University of Rochester in upstate New York, I realized my parents made ends meet on so little, and yet still enriched my life with so much. To bring our love of Maine, food, and farming to others is a real gift. A lot of us in Maine have embraced creating beautiful food from local ingredients, but we want to take it a step further with Walkers Maine. We have been working with local artists, furniture makers, potters, artisans, and farmers to make Walkers Maine a place where community members can go to see and taste authentic, unique foods. We want to mentor young culinary talents while giving them a stable environment in which to flourish, and we want to encourage those individuals to engage their entrepreneurial selves—and we’ll support them as they move on to bigger and brighter places of their own.
My son, Jackson, is my only child, but Justin and I have accumulated many other types of children over the years. Our last staff called Justin “Chef Dad,” and Justin would say, “Go ask your mother,” if he wanted to pass a decision on to me. We successfully created a work family, based on a bond of trust and high standards. We have pulled our “kids” out of snowbanks, given them advice, doled out tough love, and received more 4 a.m. calls than we’d care to mention, but we wouldn’t change a thing about the way we do business.
Although the hours are long and the work is hard, we know we are meant to open our own restaurant. There is something magical about loving what you do, and who you do it with, but even magic takes time, persistence, a little luck, and the support of a community.