August 10, 2011

Soup to Nuts:
Farm to table, the Miyake way

Eminent Portland chef Masa Miyake is living his dream of producing meat and vegetables for his restaurants on his own farm in Freeport.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

FREEPORT — A dozen happy pigs are rooting around in their pen at the Miyake Farm.

click image to enlarge

Chef Masa Miyake prepares lunch at his restaurant on Fore Street in Portland. This summer some of the food served at Miyake’s two restaurants has been produced at the farm behind his home in Freeport.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Chad Conley, seen here with quail chicks, manages the Miyake Farm in Freeport.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

One of them trots over to the electric fence, curious about the clicking sound coming from a camera. Another kicks up his heels cartoonishly as he plays around with his siblings. A third has a silver fish tail sticking out of his mouth.

Wait. A fish tail?

"They get to eat sushi-grade Japanese tuna every day," says Chad Conley, who manages the farm. "Masa will trim a whole tuna, and there's pounds and pounds of blood and scraps that can't be used that normally, before the farm, were just going in the trash.

"But the pigs love it. They eat fish heads. They eat lobster bodies. They eat extra fat that we can't use. They go crazy for it."

These well-fed pigs are living in the three-acre backyard of one of the most popular chefs in Portland, Masa Miyake. In three or four months, they will be about 250 pounds, and their flavorful meat, bones and fat will be transformed into pork buns and pork stock, and used in whatever amazingly delicious creation leaps forth from Miyake's inventive mind.

The Miyake Farm got its start this past spring growing pigs, pastured poultry and vegetables just as the chef was busy moving his first restaurant, Miyake, from its tight, tired quarters on Spring Street to its stunning new venue on Fore Street next to the Portland Harbor Hotel. Now he's juggling the new place, the budding farm project and his second restaurant, Pai Men Miyake in Longfellow Square, with the help of his growing staff.

Miyake spends most of his time in the new restaurant and leaves chef Camille Mann in charge of the kitchen at Pai Men Miyake. Chad Conley, who is also a chef and most recently worked for organic gardening expert Eliot Coleman, manages the farm.

Miyake gets home from work after midnight, but rises around 6 a.m. or so to feed and water the animals himself before coming into Portland. It's a tough schedule, but one that gives him great pleasure.

"I'm very, very busy," Miyake said during a break between lunch and dinner service at the new restaurant, "but (it's a) dream come true."

TRAINED IN FRENCH, ITALIAN CUISINE

Miyake grew up in the Aomori prefecture in northern Japan, which is, coincidentally, Maine's sister state.

He started working in restaurants in Japan as a teenager to support his artistic ambitions. At the time, his desire was to go into fashion design, but by the age of 20, he knew he wanted to be a chef.

Miyake was trained in French and Italian cuisine, and didn't start making sushi until he came to the United States and worked for an American restaurant. (They assumed because he was Japanese, he must know sushi.) In New York, his days began at 8 a.m., and he would take the subway from his home in Queens and not return until midnight.

Miyake first came to Maine on vacation eight years ago. He visited Portland and Acadia, and thought he might like to move here: "Very beautiful, same coastline, and similar to my country." He also thought that moving here was the only way he'd ever be able to afford his own restaurant.

Miyake spent the next three years vacationing in Maine to make sure that a life here was what he wanted and that he could make a living. He finally made the leap five years ago, when he was 43. But Portland felt too much like Queens, so he moved his family to Limington and got part-time work at Yosaku, the Japanese restaurant on Danforth Street.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Miyake Farm manager Chad Conley inspects a daikon plant. Conley is experimenting with three different varieties of the Japanese radish this season.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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The Miyake Farm in Freeport is also home to chickens, guinea hens, turkeys, ducks and these happy pigs.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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A flock of blue Swedish ducks, which are being raised for eggs.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer



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