Chef Matthew Padilla, The White Barn Restaurant
Photo: © GRACE WHITE BARN INN & SPA
AS EXECUTIVE CHEF AT Grace White Barn Inn & Spa, Matthew Padilla aims to entice guests to return for more with seasonal cooking and exquisite food while also preserving the beloved, traditional dishes The White Barn Restaurant has become famous for. Known for his love of local ingredients and seasonal flavors, Padilla looks forward to sourcing the freshest ingredients, including fish and seafood straight from the docks in Kennebunk.
Comprising two restored barns from the 1820s, The White Barn Restaurant is the perfect choice for a gourmet retreat or special occasion. Menus change weekly, and Padilla also adds a truffle tasting menu.
Padilla is up for the challenge of preserving the restaurant’s legacy; his training began at Johnson & Wales Culinary School in Denver, followed by stints at multiple restaurants in Tucson, a two-month stretch at Noma in Copenhagen and time working in top restaurants in San Francisco before joining the Relais & Châteaux family.
WHICH DESTINATIONS INSPIRED YOU, AND HOW HAS THAT INSPIRATION TRANSLATED INTO YOUR CULINARY CONCEPTS? I’m lucky to have traveled a lot. From every place I take inspiration. My favorite places have been Mexico, Copenhagen and Bologna. A great friend of mine took me on a road trip through his home country of Mexico. I don’t think I could’ve experienced a place like that so intimately if it weren’t for having a true guide. We ate barbacoa right out of a pit dug in the ground, a traditional Oaxacan meal in a lady’s home cooked only over open flame and a comal. The list goes on of crazy food experiences. When I travel, I less often use the actual recipes but instead try to incorporate the techniques and ingredients.
WHOM DO YOU CONSIDER TO BE YOUR CULINARY HERO? I would have to say Thomas Keller. I grew up isolated from the world of cooking. I wasn’t exposed to cuisine like what I cook now. In culinary school I’d go to the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver. I’d read cookbooks since I couldn’t afford to buy them. I read The French Laundry Cookbook from cover to cover in one sitting, blown away. So much of the food was beyond my knowledge. Now there are hundreds of books like it, but I think it was one of the first American cookbooks to be more than just recipes, but a story. The story stuck with me, and I had this thirst to achieve and cook on a level like that. The empire and culture he built after nearly giving up cooking is inspirational.
WHAT ONE PERSON MOST INFLUENCED YOUR COOKING STYLE? Ron Siegel: His relationship with farmers — and anyone, for that matter — really shines through in his cooking. He cooks seasonal and simple. I learned how to focus on showcasing the product, rather than manipulating it, from him. I also learned how to treat others and manage myself in a kitchen from observing him, which shines through in my food.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FOOD CITY? This is a tough one. I love Copenhagen and Paris. I’ve dined extensively in both, but I’d say San Francisco is the best place for food. It is underrated, maybe less so in the past couple of years. The ingredients are the best in the country, and the restaurants and talent are incredible.
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE NEXT BIG TREND ON THE FOOD SCENE WILL BE? The rise of healthy, fast, casual restaurants will continue. Americans love eating on the go, and the demise of unhealthy fast food is already starting. Quick-service restaurants that make affordable, delicious, healthy and Instagram-worthy food are already popular. A lot of trends come and go, but these style establishments will be here to stay and shape the food world for a while.
GRACE WHITE BARN INN & SPA
37 Beach Ave.
Kennebunk, ME 04043
tel 207 967 2321