Fortunately for us, more and more food entrepreneurs are choosing Maine to start up their companies.
Maddie Purcell is the owner of Fyood Kitchen, an "Iron Chef-meets-Paint Nite for foodies" in Portland, Maine.
Although some would hesitate to involve themselves in this type of competition, one of biggest surprises for Maddie has been the level of competence she is seeing in the kitchen.
“Most people are better cooks than they think they are. Over 90 percent of the participants are cooking something that they have never cooked before and doing it without a recipe.”
Currently based out of Fork Food Lab, Maddie has 15 Fyood Kitchen events under her belt and some local towns are set to be scheduled in the near future — Biddeford, Bangor, and Somerville, Massachusetts, for example.
Fyood allows participants to choose between judging and cooking when purchasing a ticket. While some participants have been asking for constructive feedback, most prefer to hear the plain truth about their dishes. At some events, she says, judges were too easy on competitors during her earlier events. When all's said and done, the future is what Maddie cares most about.
Maddie was born in Harpswell, and lived there for a time before her family relocated to Brunswick. Maddie’s dreams always took her to faraway places. As with many young Mainers of the past, diversity and culture were realities they imagined they could only experience outside of Maine. This, of course, is why Maine has one of the oldest populations in the country.
Colby College in Waterville offered Maddie a full scholarship for all four years; an opportunity she found impossible to resist. She took advantage of an appealing study abroad program and did her first semester in Dijon, France. There, she got a taste of what it would be like to live outside of Maine, a dream still dominating her thoughts. She continued at Colby with an eye toward New York or somewhere abroad after graduation.
Unanticipated personal matters kept Maddie in Maine and she has never looked back. Like many Maine millennials, she realized that quality of life can be more important than the lure of the big city. After graduation from Colby, Maddie “. . . took the first good thing that came along,” and learned a great deal about the real estate business. She had always known that she wanted to do her own thing, so after three years and little hope for advancement, Maddie pursued her first start-up idea.
Maddie, a retired college athlete, knew many others who went from daily sports activities to depression. “People have no idea how difficult it is to navigate the shift away from college sports,” she explains.
But Fyood Kitchen, Maddie’s current pursuit, is one she enjoys talking about. Fyood's model is Chopped — those involved get to improvise with mystery ingredients. Kickstarter helped Maddie raise $16,485 in 24 days, funds she has earmarked for kitchen equipment, which she says she still needs to buy.
In ten years, Maddie would like to see home cooks competing anywhere in the United States. Her own curiosity around commercial kitchen equipment is what sparked the idea for the Fyood venture. Today’s commercial kitchens make good use of technology and cooking toys not found in the home kitchen. Many find themselves wanting to play with those toys. Staging her events in commercial kitchens is making that reality possible. Maddie is also using Fyood as an opportunity to bring awareness to local food sources; using ingredients from local food businesses.
Ultimately, for Maddie, Fyood Kitchen is all about having fun. Fortunately for participants, Fyood takes care of washing the dishes, so all you have to do is cook and enjoy yourself. Maddie’s idea appears to have taken flight.
Portland is undoubtedly fertile territory for young, passionate minds. There is an openness to creativity and experimentation you do not find everywhere. I for one am pleased that so many millennials have chosen Portland as a place to begin their journey.