Ridiculously fresh seafood. Check. Farms and farmers markets galore. Yup. Great scenery. You bet. Real estate deals. Indeed. Locals and visitors who are serious about good food. Definitely. For these reasons and more, a growing number of chefs are decamping Downeast.
Geoffroy Deconinck is latest chef to trade in his fancy toque for a new start in Maine. Having worked side by side with Daniel Boulud, David Bouley, and Alain Ducasse, the 38-year-old Belgian is the newly named executive chef at Natalie’s restaurant at the Camden Harbour Inn.
Deconinck joins trend leader Melissa Kelly of Primo (Rockland), who got her start with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse; Krista Kern of Bresca (Portland), who chefed with Guy Savoy, holder of three Michelin stars, in Las Vegas; Michelle and Steve Cory of 555, who did time in Napa (she with Thomas Keller at The French Laundry) before opening their Portland restaurant; and others who’ve moved north in recent years to carve out their piece of Maine's culinary wonderland.
But it’s not just the salt air and locavore-mad diners that lured Deconinck to quaint Camden village on Penboscot Bay—the inn’s savvy owners had something to do with the move. Oscar Verest and Raymond Brunyanszki have had a special spot for Natalie’s since they opened the doors to their stylish inn in 2007, insisting on fine ingredients, great service, and sophisticated alternatives to the lobster roll (on the menu now: Deconinck’s asparagus risotto with spring garlic foam; grilled salmon with herb sabayon; and local lamb with fennel puree).
Chef Deconinck was also a 2011 nominee—the only one from Maine—for Food & Wine’s People’s Best New Chef award. Need we say more? Go and taste for yourself—just for the halibut.
Adrien Glover is the online deputy editor at Travel + Leisure.