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Chef Shanna and Brian O’Hea

by Amy Harrington November 29th, 2012 | Chef Interviews
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If you’re going to Maine for the famous winter attractions, then make sure you go to The Kennebunk Inn located on 45 Maine Street in Kennebunk. The historic Inn has been around for generations, and you are sure to be welcomed with a cozy room and a delightful dining experience.  Dine at Academe -A Maine Brasserie & Tavern inside the Inn where Chef and Owners, Brian O’Hea and Shanna Katherine Horner O’Hea will exceed all your New England dining expectations. They have a long reputation on value, quality and service. Foods you can find here at Academe vary from Lobster Pot Pie, Organic Atlantic Salmon to classic Butternut Squash soup. A friendly atmosphere and an inviting menu are sure to have you coming back for more at Academe.

AH: How do you balance being owners and chefs?

CB/CS: Since we first opened the Inn, Brian and I have shared all responsibilities. Ironically, we never had a conversation about what tasks each of us would be responsible for; we just went with what felt like a natural fit. Brian handles catering, ordering and managing the bar and beverage list, meat and fish deliveries. I am responsible for marketing both the Inn and restaurant, overseeing Inn operations, all dessert production, training new culinary interns, and ordering produce. We are both on the line five days a week cooking, and work together on menu development and special events.

AH: What are some of the advantages to having a restaurant in an Inn?

CB/CS: The best advantage is that we have a captive audience for dining. We encourage guests to dine with us by providing special promotions and because of our growing reputation for high quality food; the majority of our in house guests also dine with us. Brian and I also like to travel and promote our restaurant and having an additional option for people to stay helps.

AH: What local produce items are being used in your dishes currently?

CB/CS: Butternut squash for our roasted butternut squash soup with Sage cream is a big hit. Sage, rosemary, parsley, thyme in our herb cream for Lobster Pizza, for our lobster stock in our Lobster Pot Pie and our Sage against the Machine cocktail. Dairy, butter, eggs are all local to New England for a variety of dishes on our menu.

AH: Do you work with any farms in the area?

CB/CS: We work with Mud Meadow farm in Wells and Spiller Farm. Janet Weaver, from Mud Meadow, created an herb garden for us behind the Inn, which we utilize six months out of the year. She also helps us decorate the outside of our Inn for the holiday seasons. Spiller provides us great local Maine items during the spring, summer and fall – some of the best strawberries you will ever have!

AH: What is your favorite dish you are currently serving?

CB/CS:  Our Sous Vide chicken breast is new this fall and encompasses all the great fall/winter flavors. The chicken is sous vide and then pan roasted to get a crispy skin, we deglaze the pan with an apple cider chicken jus and then finish the sauce with an apple, bacon butter. We serve the chicken with fried Brussels sprouts, which creates a great roasted flavor and our sweet potato “soufflé” finished with homemade marshmallow.

AH: What makes you restaurant unique?

CB/CS: Our restaurant is truly a partnership of Brian and I and some of our most successful dishes have been a collaboration of both of our skills. We also enjoy having fun with our menu, whether it is the name of a dish, “Put the Lime in the Coconut Cocktail’, or use of unique ingredients. Brian has been incorporating savory cotton candy with a number of dishes and drinks, or our innovative plating, like the smoking gun technique with table side soups.

The name of our restaurant is Academe, which means a place of learning, and we are always trying to educate ourselves on the latest developments in the culinary market. We also wanted to call our restaurant a “brasserie” which means unpretentious dining. Our philosophy is great tasting food, of all levels, in an informal environment, with friendly service.

AH: Tell me about the success of your lobster pot pie dish and your new business venture.

CB/CS: Our Lobster Pot Pie was featured on the Food Network show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” on the “Reinventing Classics” episode (January 3, 2011). “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” is the ultimate guide to the country’s most amazing meals, eats, and treats as told by the professionals who spend their lives obsessing about food. Chef Cat Cora, the first female American Iron Chef, selected Academe’s signature dish, Lobster Pot Pie.

It was a great choice because it combines Brian’s stock skills for the base of pot pie, my pastry skills for the puff pastry and Maine’s star ingredient lobster. In March 2012, I competed on “Chopped” the acclaimed Food Network program. Although I was “Chopped” after the entrée round, The Inn and Academe have received numerous visitors since the episode aired.

The Kennebunk Inn and Academe were featured on the Travel Channel show “Food Paradise, ” which focuses on the best eats around the country (November 7, 2012). The signature Lobster Pot Pie was one of the features of the episode “Pot Pie Paradise.” In addition, the Travel Channel highlighted their Maine Lobster White Truffle Pizza, which is quickly becoming another fan favorite.

This national demand for our famous Lobster pot pie motivated us to launch Maine Lobster Pot Pie Shipping in August 2012. The website is devoted to our Maine specialties like Lobster Pot Pie, which we ship with fresh Maine lobster and seafood over-night across the United States. You can place your order via http://mainelobsterpotpie.com.

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