Rory Strunk has built a successful outdoor sports-themed broadcast network, produced an Emmy award-winning television show and created content for such iconic brands as Absolut vodka. Now he wants to build a world-class kitchen studio in Portland that Maine’s food and beverage industry, restaurants and homegrown celebrity chefs could use to meet the growing demand for culinary-themed online video content.

In a leased warehouse at 54 Danforth St., he’s built a traditional production studio, called O’Maine Studio, to film and shoot content for his clients and to rent to others. The other half of the warehouse space is home to O’Maine Media Kitchen.

At the moment, the kitchen studio is more kitchen than studio. Strunk has installed a commercial stove and oven, and stocked it with pots and pans and other cooking utensils; getting the space ready for the cameras is phase two. To that end, Strunk and his team have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $65,000. As of Wednesday, the campaign had raised nearly $10,000 from 25 backers. The campaign ends the morning of Nov. 6 and will be funded only if the $65,000 threshold is met.

While kitchen studios have popped up in places like New York City and Los Angeles, Strunk doesn’t believe anything like what he envisions exists in New England.

“The O’Maine Media Kitchen is designed (to provide) three things for the food and beverage industry of Maine: a kitchen studio designed to produce content on all topics of food and beverage; a demonstration classroom for chefs and everyday people; and a host venue to celebrate all dimensions of food and beverage from pop-up (dinners) to the creation of culinary TV events,” Strunk said.

The endeavor is receiving some early support from Maine food companies.


Cynthia Fisher, vice president of marketing at Bar Harbor Foods, which sells a large line of canned seafood specialty products, toured the facility earlier this week. In the past, Bar Harbor Foods has paid producers to create videos featuring the company’s products for online marketing. That filming, however, was done in Philadelphia.

“(This) is huge for this area. It is huge for Maine food. Since I’ve been here, Maine food is one of the most undermarketed resources in the state,” she said. “With the number of food producers in the state, a very small percent will ever be heard of outside the state, and that’s a sad thing. It’s a sad thing for the state and the economy.”

Strunk, who operates Global Content Partners, a content development and production company, has self-funded the build-out of O’Maine Studios and the O’Maine Media Kitchen since opening in November. He’s used the studio to create content for his clients, including Pernod-Ricard, the beverage giant that owns Absolut vodka and Malibu Rum, and Backyard Farms, the tomato grower in Madison.

The facility has attracted others looking for good studio space. Neiman Marcus rented it for a fashion photo shoot earlier this year; local rapper Spose recently filmed a music video there; and film director Kyle Rankin, a graduate of the University of Maine, this summer used the studio to film the car chase scenes for his indy zombie flick, “Night of the Living Deb.”

But the kitchen studio is where Strunk sees the potential for explosive growth. In pre-social media days, a food brand only needed photos for print ads in magazines or something similar. But the emergence of social media has created venues that require content on a daily basis. Food and beverage brands are using kitchen studios to film cooking segments for the Web and shoot food porn for posting on Facebook, Instagram and Pintrest. Cooking- and food-related videos are the fastest-growing segment on YouTube, according to the online video-sharing website. It reported that in 2013 the top 20 culinary-related YouTube channels attracted 370 million views worldwide.

“The demand for food and beverage content to feed these national brands is literally unrelenting,” Strunk said. “Just the sheer volume of it has created a market.”


Jamie Tiampo, CEO of See Food Media in New York City, has built his business around this changing dynamic. His company has four kitchen studios in New York City, which celebrity chefs such as Jacques Pepin and Bobby Flay have used to film television and online content, and brands such as Tabasco and Campbell’s Soup have used to create content.

“Individuals can now watch video online from pretty much anywhere and that’s driven massive demand for video content,” Tiampo said. He plans to build three more kitchen studios next year.

Strunk said he’s already proven to existing clients that his team can produce the same quality work from a studio in Maine as a studio in New York City. And with his lower associated real estate and labor costs, he believes he can compete with kitchen studios in New York City.

O’Maine Media Kitchen already has landed its first client: the Maine College of Art’s culinary arts program. Frederic Eliot, executive chef at Petite Jacqueline on Portland’s Longfellow Square, is teaching the class and said the space is a great addition to the local food scene. Besides providing a cooking classroom, it could be used as a test kitchen by food entrepreneurs and as a venue for chefs to host pop-up dinners. Eliot also sees potential for local chefs who want to reach a wider audience through the Internet using the space to film cooking videos and tutorials that could be posted on YouTube, a personal branding strategy chefs are using as more home cooks turn to their iPads for recipe videos rather than classic cookbooks while in the kitchen.

Strunk and his team have ideas for several food-themed shows they could film in the O’Maine Media Kitchen, including having one well-known chef interview other well-known chefs about their favorite recipes, followed with a segment where the chefs prepare the recipes.

“We’d like to take it outside Maine, but we have so many James Beard award winners here we can start here,” said Amanda Howland, O’Maine Studios director of marketing and business development.

The Kickstarter campaign still has three weeks to run. If it’s not successful, Strunk said it will be a sign that Maine’s food and beverage industry is not quite ready for the type of effort he envisions.

“If we don’t raise the money from Kickstarter, it will be a statement that the utility of the media kitchen just isn’t ready for the market in Maine,” he said. “It may be great for places like New York and LA, but clearly if we don’t get some indication from the state and companies and the restaurants that this has some meaningful value to them, then we probably jumped ahead of ourselves.”

Based on early support, however, he’s confident by early next year Maine will have its own kitchen studio ready to rocket the next Rachael Ray to Internet fame.

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