Thought leaders converge at Sunday River for food summit

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Like Davos, where wealthy world beaters convene to determine global agendas for the coming year, Sunday River’s inaugural Chef Summit brings together restaurateurs, food producers, distributors and farmers from across Maine and beyond to lay out new tracks for growth.

This weekend’s agenda includes creating year-round demand for foodie tourism, increasing demand for new markets, brand building and defining Maine’s hospitality future. Apres skiing and night snow tubing are also on the roster so lookout below!

Like last week’s heavy-hitting world economic forum, Friday’s summit centers on creating partnerships and leveraging Maine’s strengths. The goal: to create a gourmet ground zero and keep it fertile.

“Maine is on the cusp of becoming a true player in the food and beverage industry, ” said Rory Strunk, head of O’Maine Studios in Portland who is orchestrating the event.

One part networking, one part state of the plate, “it’s kind of like a Ted Talk,” said Strunk, who believes the time is right to gather brand leaders, chefs and farmers from both land and sea to lift Maine from a dining hub into another stratosphere: a world class destination. You know, like Dubai with trees. Also, the dead of winter is “a good time to get out of Dodge.”

Shipping up to ski town are panelists such as restaurateur David Turin of David’s restaurants in Greater Portland and Kennebunkport; Kerry Altiero of Cafe Miranda in Rockland; Arlin Smith, the brass behind Portland’s trifecta Eventide Oyster Co., Hugo’s and The Honey Paw as well as Luke Holden of New York City-based Luke’s Lobster empire. The current lobster chef of the year Matt Ginn from EVO’s in Portland will weigh in on the state of Portland’s raging Eatopolis and mixologist Andrew Volk of Portland Hunt and Alpine Club is sure to stir things up.

Like Sundance, the film fest in session in Utah right now, schussing down the slopes is good for biz. Panelists like Lisa Webster of North Star Sheep Farm in Windham, whose pasture-raised lamb is coveted by top chefs across New England, will sharpen her edges and share tips with a Sodexo executive as they brainstorm ways to make Maine an even stronger food magnet. Who knows what collisions will occur in the gondola queue the next day? (Helmets are encouraged).

Five hour-long discussions start Friday at 10 and are open to the public. A chef’s tasting Saturday night at the Jordan Hotel features cooks from Eventide, Cafe Miranda, Union at the Press Hotel and more. Tickets are $65. Sounds like a double black diamond weekend on tap, flurries or no flurries, the conditions look ideal in Newry.

Kathleen Pierce

About Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.