We consider ourselves fortunate to have many friends here in Camden. Lani Stiles is one of our good friends and the owner of Megunticook Market. We wanted you to meet her too. Next time you are in Camden be sure to stop by and say hello to her at her market – although you might spot her in our restaurant or at the nearby Cellardoor Winery.
How did you become a chef?
I worked in corporate marketing as an event planner for 10 years, organizing senior management conferences and off-sites in the US and Europe. After a few years working with chefs to create menus for these events and incorporating foods and tastes specific to the destination of the event, I was inspired to become a cook and spend my days creating in the kitchen. I had two options to pursue this inspiration; go back to school for another degree or apprentice. While in New York, an opportunity to learn in a kitchen, café and catering operation presented itself and I took it. After a year I was managing the operation and working hands-on with the chef and kitchen team on a daily basis.
How did you end up opening a market in Maine?
In a year, another opportunity presented itself- a move to Maine. Summers visiting Maine, its rural beauty, seaside coast, natural food and farm scene were already a draw. The decision to move here was easy. Immediate immersion into Megunticook Market with its neighborhood charm and history, its reputation of great meats and products from local sources married with a kitchen on-site was just the right formula. Over the past 10 years, we have embraced these origins and continued to grow our commitment to local producers and great quality food sources, while expanding the offerings to prepared meals and catering. Two years ago, we added on an 800 square foot kitchen to help support the demand for these cooked foods.
How did you end up working with Cellardoor Winery and the Camden Harbour Inn?
We have naturally partnered with Cellardoor Winery and Camden Harbour Inn as we are all in the services and hospitality business and our offerings create a wealth of experiences from our coastal area. We pair our foods, cooking classes and events with Cellardoor wines and experiences at the winery. Opportunities to partner with Camden Harbour Inn and Natalie’s for luxury stays, phenomenal menus in-house and at the winery offer one of kind experiences for guests and unique moments to collaborate with friends and owners of these businesses. Raymond, Bettina and I love to try new things, experience life, laugh and have fun doing what we do. Having fun with it makes us good at it, because the enthusiasm is contagious for us. No better way to go through life. Bettina’s motto at the winery is ‘Live your life. Be who you are. Drink good wine along the way.’ This is how we live it.
What’s the best part about working with local food producers?
Working with local food producers is a relationship business. Relationship with our products and with the people who make, grow and produce them. Maine Water Buffalo Farm produces a high quality, very lean beef that is home grown and grass fed. What fun it was the day we took a field trip to Appleton to visit with Jessica, her dad and three children as they drove us into the pasture to meet the animals and show us the respect and nurturing that they provide to the herd. We now know exactly where the beef is raised and how it is cared for.
What’s your favorite summer ingredient?
Choosing a favorite summer ingredient is like asking me to pick a color from the rainbow. After all, it is the phenomenon of the rainbow and all its colors that make the whole so special. My favorite summer ingredient depends on the day of summer. I love strawberries early and late, greens in the early summer, blueberries in the first week of August, then fresh corn and tomatoes. Living in Maine, you respect the seasons and learn that the best ingredients are the ones freshest and in season, so you anticipate by the week and month and then your favorite is the one at the height of its flavor ripeness. The question is not my favorite summer ingredient, but what is my favorite right now in the moment?
Do you have a favorite dish that you cook at home?
Cooking at home and cooking for guests is where my roots show. I grew up in Texas and spice, tex-mex, fresh Pico de Gallo and guacamole are my weaknesses. I love using these flavors and ingredients with the fresh farm market produce and seafood I find in Maine. I will make ceviche out of any fish or shellfish that comes in fresh. At home, I like to grill meats, BBQ and slow roast brisket in the oven.
Do you have anything fun planned for the rest of the summer?
Summer is always too short to do everything but that is the best part about looking forward to another summer. This summer I will eat ice cream, sit in Adirondack chairs with views of the vineyard, eat fabulous meals by Chef Jon at Natalie’s at Camden Harbour Inn on the deck outside while watching fireworks, cater beautiful weddings and parties and best of all laugh with friends and enjoy the thrill of being pregnant for the first time.