FREEPORT — Troy Mains rang in his 40th birthday on Jan. 16 with news that he was named Chef of the Year by the Maine Restaurant Association.
Mains, the executive chef at the Harraseeket Inn, will receive the award March 27 at the association’s annual awards banquet at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland.
Mains was nominated for the award by his mentor, Michael Gagne, with whom he first worked at the Osprey Restaurant and later at Robinhood Free Meetinghouse, both in his hometown of Georgetown. Gagne is now owner of Gagne Foods in Bath and was Chef of the Year in 2008.
Mains began washing dishes at age 14 at the Osprey Restaurant. He’s been working his way up through the ranks of Maine’s restaurant industry ever since.
“I worked on the weekends in high school … I liked the chaos, I liked the fire, I liked the environment,” Mains said in a Feb. 15 interview. “I knew from a very early age what I wanted to do.”
Mains has worked at the Harraseeket for six years and is in charge all things food at the inn’s banquet facility and two full-service restaurants, The Broad Arrow Tavern and Maine Harvest Dining Room. All three serve contemporary American cuisine with a “New England flair.”
The most important part of the job, Mains said, is teaching his staff of more than 30 employees, including five chefs, the way Gagne taught him.
“Besides being an extremely talented chef, (Mains) is also tirelessly committed to improving his craft, as well as training and developing the youth coming up in the ranks,” Gagne said in prepared statement.
“I want to pass something along,” Mains said. “It’s very important to me that I build a team to do so.”
But finding those with an appetite to be mentored can be a challenge.
“It’s hard to find people who want to cook these days because it’s really hard work,” Mains said, noting that he doesn’t see high school-age kids looking for weekend restaurant jobs the way he once did.
“I don’t see much of a desire anymore,” he said.
Still, his team continues to inspire his work and motivation to teach – especially longtime employees of the Harraseeket, such as brunch chef Elizabeth DeFranco and pastry chef Sharon Lawrence.
Another important part of Mains’ “team” are his wife, Nicole, and two daughters, who he said are extremely supportive of his passion and dreams, regardless of the long hours and demanding schedule.
In teaching those working under him, Mains said he hopes to eventually be able to work less and spend more time hunting, fishing, and hanging out with his family.
A professional dream, Mains said, is to cook a meal with his Harraseeket Inn team at the James Beard House in New York City.
“Chef of the Year is not just my award,” Mains said. “It’s my team’s award just as much as it is mine.”
Troy Mains, executive chef of the Harraseeket Inn in Freeport, was named the Maine Restaurant Association 2018 Chef of the Year.