Chef Laura Cabot, of Waldoboro, is celebrating her 35th year as a chef and caterer in Maine.
A French-trained chef, Cabot is a graduate of La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Burgundy, France and the Culinary Institute of America Greystone in Napa Valley, Calif.
The executive chef and owner of Laura Cabot Catering has a home, a separate facility with a commercial kitchen, and extensive gardens of vegetables, herbs, and flowers on around an acre of land in the historic district of Waldoboro.
Cabot also has an office in a coworking space overlooking the Medomak River, on the third floor of a recently renovated office building on Jefferson Street.
She loves the small town she calls home. “I can walk to a restaurant, the pharmacy, the library, the theater, and my office,” she said.
For Cabot, who calls herself a “recovering restaurateur,” cooking has been her focus since before she moved to Maine from Cherry Hill, N.J. after selling her business in Philadelphia, Grateful Bread Bakery. She was 19.
In 1977, Cabot moved to Pittsfield, where her then-boyfriend lived in his grandfather’s house. There were gardens and a summer kitchen with a big slate sink and hand pump. If they wanted hot water, they had to keep the wood stove going. “It was really interesting. I was an urban girl and I’d never thought about gardening or cooking on a wood stove,” she said.
While living in Pittsfield, she took a job working at Sebasticook Farms in St. Albans. The organization was working with recently released residents of Pineland Center, a facility for people with intellectual disabilities, as a way to reintroduce them into society.
The chef received a grant to start a pilot bakery program. “It gave these people who’d been streamlined into the community an opportunity to learn life, work, and socialization skills through a bakery,” she said. She ran the program for six years.
She moved to Waldoboro in 1984, where she bought into and ran the Pine Cone Cafe for 27 years. The restaurant was an instant success.
“We were an oasis for area people. We had good wine, we had good home cooking,” Cabot said. “We were farm to fork before there was actually a term for it.”
In 2006, she closed the restaurant and began to focus solely on her catering business.
Cabot said she works with a roster of growers to supply produce for her catering events, but she grows much of her own. “I tend to grow the things that are hard to find. I’m trying to start some ramps and I’ve been planting fiddleheads.” Ramps are also known as wild leeks.
She said she thinks of her gardens as something like a classroom, too. “I have an intern every year, and it’s remarkable that even educated young adults see something like a tall asparagus shoot, or a stalk of Brussels sprouts, and don’t realize what they are.
“It’s nice to foster the connection of how your food is grown and what you’re eating.”
Cabot has been featured in Ladies’ Home Journal and Continental Airlines’ in-flight magazine.
She has catered for HGTV’s Dream Home Giveaway and she and her team have debuted events for Volvo, Subaru, and other corporate clients.
Cabot has made Waldoboro her headquarters because she feels it’s the right place for her. “I think the coast of Maine, and Waldoboro in particular, is great for my business. It’s perfectly located. It’s central to so many great things, and there’s more local talent here now than there ever has been.
“It’s like being in the center of the spokes of a wheel. I’ve made my name here and it’s been a good place for my business.”
Cabot makes a point of traveling to different places every winter to learn more about food. Last winter she went to New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. Her focus at the present is on learning more about vegan dishes. “It’s my fastest-growing demographic, and it’s good for the planet and good for the body,” she said.
Whether or not she’s traveling during the winter months, the caterer’s mind is always busy with thoughts of food. “I do what I call the winter challenge, when there’s not a lot of nice fresh stuff around. I keep a good pantry, but I’ll go to the fridge and see what I’ve got, and challenge myself to make something delicious,” she said.
Laura Cabot Catering’s statewide services include wedding consultation and planning, full bar and food service, and event planning.
For more information, call 832-6337 or go to lauracabotcatering.com.