This popular dish – lobster pot pie – is the creation of chefs and innkeepers Brian and Shanna O’Hea of the Kennebunk Inn. Tammy Wells photo

KENNEBUNK – One of the most popular items on the menu at Academe, the restaurant at the Kennebunk Inn, is Lobster Pot Pie. The dish is billed as a signature item – no surprise there. The Lobster Pot Pie combines lobster meat, lobster stock made on the premises, cream, potatoes, corn, and peas – topped with chef-made height-defying puff pastry.

It is the creation of chefs and innkeepers Brian and Shanna O’Hea, who bought the venerable inn on Kennebunk’s Main Street in a snowstorm on March day in 2003 and opened for dinner that evening. The inn was initially built as a private residence in 1799,

The Lobster Pot Pie debuted a bit later and has been featured on the Food Network show “The Best Thing I ever Ate,” and The Travel Channel’s “Food Paradise.”

Kennebunk Inn chefs and innkeepers Brian and Shanna O’Hea are famous for their lobster pot pie and for other Maine lobster dishes, available online for those who can’t make it to their restaurant, Acadame. Tammy Wells photo

And while the restaurant menu sports dishes without lobster, there are several more with Maine’s most famous food: there is the lobster roll, lobster white truffle pizza and Lobster Lo Mein – or Lobster Lo’Maine as it’s called on the menu – a chilled noodle and lobster dish served with warm pork belly.

The couple’s lobster pot pie and lobster white truffle pizza have been highlighted in Oprah Winfrey’s “O” magazine.

The couple’s philosophy is to provide upscale comfort food.

“What’s more comforting than a pot pie? It’s our most popular item,” said Brian.

Brian cooks and shells the lobsters and picks the meat, and makes a stock with the shells, adding juniper berries, black peppercorns, and various herbs. He heats cream, adds strained stock, and lets it reduce. Potatoes, corn and peas are cooked separately and then added to the reduced cream and stock mixture.

The lobster meat – tail, knuckle and claw –  goes in last, and then is plated in a crock. Shanna’s puff pastry popped on at the last moment.

The dishes aren’t only popular on the restaurant menu, they’re available through the online service called Goldbelly, where customers can order and pay for an array of foods – from barbecue to authentic Philadelphia cheesesteaks, Gramercy mushroom lasagna and Brian and Shanna’s lobster pot pie and other lobster dishes. The dishes are made as kits and shipped fresh, properly packaged, from the restaurant premises right to the customer’s door.

The couple began shipping themselves after someone watched the show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” and called to say he’d like a lobster pot pie – and that he lived in Rhode Island.

So, they started shipping lobster pot pie kits on their own, and were wooed by Foodydirect, which was later sold to Goldbelly.

Lobster Lo’Maine is one of a number of dishes created by chefs and innkeepers Brian and Shanna O’Hea of the Kennebunk Inn. Tammy Wells Photo

Now, the pot pie, lobster white truffle pizza, lobster rolls and lobster lo ‘Maine go out all over the country.

“It was like the gates opened,” said Brian O’Hea.

During the lead-up to Christmas during COVID in 2020, the couple was out straight, shipping orders. They averaged 120 lobsters daily, picking and shipping them in various dishes, in the three-week lead-up to the holiday.

The 2020 Christmas season for shipping grew by 281 percent over 2019, said Shanna. She pointed out they were able to hone their  focus on shipping because the inn was closed at the time, due to the pandemic and for renovations.

These days, the inn is experiencing staff shortages, as are many in the industry.

“We’re understaffed in every department,” said Shanna.

The food preparation for shipping a couple of  days a week  allows the couple to keep line cooks working a good schedule, she added, even though Academe is open  three evenings a week – Thursday through Saturday.

The couple is also active in other areas of  the industry, serving as guest chefs for Holland America cruise lines and at an array of food and wine festivals.

“We promote Maine lobster, and we own an inn,” said Brian. And while the two chefs are happy to make other dishes, “people ask for lobster,” he said.

As for the online order service, well, they use it themselves, ordering ribs from Memphis, pizza from New York and more.

While their offerings online include other lobster dishes, the lobster pot pie, both in the restaurant and available for shipping, has been their hallmark.

“That one thing really turned our inn and our careers around,” said Shanna.

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