Earth at Hidden Pond, a rustic-yet-stylish resort restaurant in Kennebunkport, has hired a new executive chef, paving the way for the current chef to open his own restaurant.

Joseph A. Schafer, who will begin working in Earth’s kitchen immediately, is no stranger to Maine. From 2005 to 2008, he was chef de cuisine at The White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport, and his wife is a native of the Kennebunks.

Most recently, Schafer was executive chef at Blantyre, a Relais & Chateaux property in Lenox, Massachusetts. He has also worked at several luxury resorts, including Relais & Chateaux restaurants in Pennsylvania, Montana and New York. In Europe, he spent time at Restaurant Hélène Darroze in Paris, which has two Michelin stars, and Trattoria Magafula in Milan.

“Joe really understands the luxury resort guest and has proven time and again that he knows how to meet and exceed their fine dining expectations,” Tim Harrington, founding partner of the Kennebunk Resort Collection, which owns and manages Earth, was quoted as saying in a press release.

Schafer replaces Justin Walker, who has been at Earth since 2013. Walker and his wife, Danielle Johnson Walker, who managed the front of house at Earth, are leaving to start their own restaurant at the Cape Neddick Inn, which they purchased in May. The couple told the Press Herald last month that they were leaving Earth in part so they could spend more time with their young son.

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