In the small Down East community of Steuben, Maine, Chef Christopher Meynell serves French-American fusion cuisine with a generous portion of community pride. Christopher’s Restaurant is part of the Eagle Hill Institute, where the community gathers for fine dining and a wide range of public programs and resources.
“We are here for the community,” states Meynell. “It’s a place for the community to come and actually be like ‘wow.’” Christopher’s fills a void in this coastal community that does not have a year ‘round restaurant. “To say we live in Steuben and we have this great restaurant here; it brings pride to the community in a way,” he added.
Local Steuben resident and regular Christopher’s dining patron Tom Hitchins agrees with this sentiment, “Having a first-class restaurant here in our little town is going to be very good for us in terms of the economy, and on social and cultural levels as well.”
Several community groups benefit from the community galas sponsored by the Eagle Hill Institute along with Meynell: everything from the Little League team to the Volunteer Fire Department, Petit Manan Ambulance Corps to the local school, Parish House and Library.
“It’s fun. We have the little league players be the servers for the night. We’d like to do more of that, especially in the wintertime, to raise money for the cheerleading squad, things like that,” added Meynell.
“The health of the community is only as good as the extent to which local businesses and institutions, as well as individual citizens participate in it,” added Hitchins. “By sponsoring the galas, he gives us as individuals an opportunity to come together and do something good for the community – and have a great meal as well.”
According to the National Restaurant Association website, ninety percent of restaurants are actively involved in community activities. Restaurateurs’ time and effort help people who are neighbors, guests and sometimes future employees.
Meynell echoes their statement, “Something that’s important to me for the community is staffing from the community. I prefer to have local people from here working with me. I’d rather get our dishwashers, our servers, everybody like that from the people who live down the road so they can have a place they are proud to work at.”
Local residents are not the only ones to enjoy Meynell’s fare. Eagle Hill Institute’s natural history science seminars offer programs for biologists and illustrators from state and federal agencies, non-profit organizations, universities and schools. The attendees benefit from staying on campus where a second kitchen overseen by Chef Meynell serves them family-style meals.
Meynell’s culinary journey began at the age of fourteen when his mother marched him into a local restaurant after proclaiming he needed to get a job. Starting at the bottom of the ladder washing dishes soon led to prep work and eventually cooking. Along the way, he realized cooking was a passion.
“I remember I was having a terrible day, it was the worst day ever,” recalls Meynell. “Nothing was going right, and then once I got into the kitchen that day for work, everything was gone. Everything that I was worried about that day, it was just, all of a sudden, nothing else mattered. It just took care of all my worries for the day.”
By the time he was eighteen, Meynell was learning his craft abroad in Europe, cooking for the Grand Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg, where he learned from a one-star Michelin Chef. Memories of the big banquets he prepared in Belgium for Prime Ministers make him want to duplicate the grandeur for his community. “I’m trying to bring that back to Down East Maine, just to have a nice place for people.”
“Doing good by eating well, you can’t beat it!” is how Hitchins sums it up.
To learn more about Chef Meynell, visit http://eaglehill.us/christophers or visit them on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/christophers.at.eagle.hill