Chef Geoffroy Deconinck, who in October 2010 left New York City and the high-profile likes of Daniel and Bouley behind for Natalie's at the Camden Harbour Inn, has been replaced by chef Jon Gaboric. whose profile is on the Inn's website. He comes to Camden from Austin, Texas, where earlier this year, he won Food Network's Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell and an executive chef position with Abel's on the Lake. That post didn't work out so well for Gaboric, according to Eater Austin. His new menu is already in place; last week on the Inn's Facebook page, while a few customers lamented Deconinck's departure, Inn management posted that they were in the process of "tastings, tastings and more tastings."
With a sense of time and place, combined with a dash of Camden's International flair, we tasted Maine Lobster with artichokes, Wagyu Beef carpaccio, North Star Farm Lamb with Thai Basil, Bowden Farm Poached Egg with Pickled Sardines and Mustard dressing, and a couple of amazing desserts by our new Pastry Chef Jason Sturdivant including a beet sorbet.
"Oscar and I are always very involved in the restaurant ... we've been traveling around looking for the last three-quarters of a year or so at what's current, what's new and what the trends are," said Inn owner Raymond Brunyanszki, referring to his partner, Oscar Verest). "Geoffroy and his wife desperately wanted to go back to New York with their two kids ... we decided to go in a new direction and make it more current again. We felt there was a disconnect between the Inn and the restaurant. It's opened up a possibility for us to do different things." Where Deconinck's menu was firmly French, Geboric's is what Brunyanszki calls "modern New England fine dining ... inspired by the harbor ... we are far more focused on the here and now in Maine."
Natalie's remains a high-end dining experience, but Brunyanszki says he, Verest and Gaboric want to make it more lighthearted. "It's somewhere between Nomad and Eleven Madison Park (both highly regarded restaurants in New York City). What we really liked about Jon is that he's extremely current, modern and young ... (With new pastry chef Sturdivent) the dynamic is just amazing in this kitchen."
The changes at Natalie's include dispensing with an ala carte menu. But that doesn't mean there aren't choices within the more structured format. A 3-course tasting menu has "6 to 7 options per course," said Brunyanszki; there are also the 7-course chef's tasting menu and a 4-course lobster tasting menu (offered from mid-June to the end of October). "In between we do surprises and little fun things to make it more entertaining. We want more interaction between the staff and the guests on a culinary level." With the official roll-out in mid-June, he said, the fun will start with "a little amuse bouche at curbside," before guests are escorted into the dining room. On the way out, guests get a gift of pastries to take home (or eat in the car). "We've never been a restaurant where you eat in 45 minutes and you're out; with the prix-fixe you know there's more of a time commitment."
Beyond "the Catskills," Brunyanszk said he didn't know where Deconinck was headed. "I think super-highly of Geoffroy. But because we're not a chef-owned restaurant, we have the opportunity to constantly change things."
· Camden Harbor Inn [Official Site]
· Abel's Gig 'Was Not The Dream Job Promised' Says Chef [Eater Austin]
· Camden Harbour Inn [FB]
· All Coverage of Camden Harbour Inn [~EMAINE~]
[Photo: Eater Austin]