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Networking: Kelly Patrick Farrin

Maine Lobster Chef of the Year Sous Chef, Azure Café, Freeport, Maine

By James Wright
January 01, 2011

"I’m trying to get my name out there, but my heart is here in Maine."

 

Kelly Patrick Farrin has a very Irish name and the telltale red hair that gives away his lineage. But it's the Italian cuisine he whips up in Freeport, Maine, that's putting Azure Café on the map. Not that the restaurant is all that hard to find: It's just a couple doors down from renowned outdoor-outfitter L.L. Bean's flagship store.

At 27 years of age and with only a handful of entries on his resume, Farrin's culinary career lies mostly ahead of him; he joined Azure in early 2010. The Boothbay Harbor native did, however, make a name for himself in October when he became the Maine Lobster Chef of the Year by winning a cooking contest at the emerging Portland foodie event Harvest 
on the Harbor. When presenting Farrin his $1,000 check, Maine Lobster Promotion Council Executive Director Dane Somers told him, "Prepare to be famous."

WRIGHT: What was your winning dish 
and its inspiration?

FARRIN: Herb Grilled Maine Lobster Tail on Arugula with Chive Ricotta Gnocchi and Corn Milk. We were asked to portray a fall harvest with fall ingredients. But we [put our recipe together] in the middle of July, which was a challenge.

How did you get into cooking?

I got thrown into it at 18, cooking breakfast at Andrew's Harborside [in Boothbay Harbor, Maine]. Every restaurant there is seasonal, very touristy. It's the Lobster Capital of the World. The peninsula, on a map, kinda looks like a lobster. [My time there] made me think it would be a good career, being around all the seafood. We had lots of clambakes in the summers as a kid.

Would you describe the cuisine 
at Azure as traditional Italian?

I'd say it's more sea-grill Italian; you can get your classic Italian dishes but also baked stuffed haddock, salmon and halibut dishes. There's a big variety of seafood beyond the coast of Maine that we have access to.

What seafood species inspire you?

Maine lobster, to start; there are so many variations. Maine crabmeat is a delicacy and we don't even realize it here. Fresh fish like halibut, haddock and salmon. But my favorite to cook is tuna, because of all the temperatures you can utilize.

Do you serve bluefin tuna?

No. We actually don't even have tuna on the menu. The consistency isn't always the same. I worked for a bit in Key West, and the tuna there is fresh off the boat. But it's not as easy [to source] up here.

How difficult is it to buy local in a northern climate like Maine?

In the summer it's fairly easy. We have our own garden for fresh produce and herbs. Buying locally, as far as meats, we have a local farm for beef called Wolfe's Neck. In the winter we change over to root vegetables and broccoli, while in the summer it's asparagus. We go with the season and what's available. People want variety and change on the menu.

Have you seen a change in your customers' mindsets that tells you that the worst of the recession is over?

Yeah, definitely. People are starting to come more and more. Freeport has more new shops and a new plaza now, and the traffic is coming harder and harder. In the summers, people go to Freeport to go shopping and we're right near L.L. Bean, you can't miss us.

What was your reaction when you were told to "prepare to be famous?" 

I don't know - the possibilities are endless. I'm trying to get my name out there, but my heart is here in Maine.

January 2011 - SeaFood Business 

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