After 19 years as the owner of Back Bay Grill, one of Portland’s best-known fine dining restaurants, chef Larry Matthews Jr. is handing over the reins to a new management team who will create something new called Six Degrees of Back Bay Grill.

Matthews will still own the restaurant – and he may still appear in the kitchen occasionally – but it will be run by a three-person team: Don Purdy, who has owned and operated The Rock House on Harbour Island in the Bahamas, and Mariah and Matt Dyer. Matt Dyer was a co-founder of Batson River Brewing and Distilling. The new chef will be Nick Gratton, who has worked at Earth at Hidden Pond in Kennebunkport, and at the Maine restaurants owned by James Beard Award winners Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier.

“Our old system wasn’t going to go on forever,” Matthews said, who has been with Back Bay since the 1990s. “Everything has a shelf life, and I think we had a really great run.”

Matthews said he started to think about making changes after his long-time general manager, Adrian Stratton, decided to move on. Stratton, who has worked with Matthews at Back Bay Grill for 18 years, had been looking for a new, more family-friendly position for a while, Matthews said. He will leave Back Bay Grill at the end of August to start a new job talking wines at Old Port Spirits and Cigars in Portland.

The new management team will provide a “younger, fresher outlook,” said Matthews, who will oversee the new project. The plan is to keep the best of Back Bay Grill and at the same time allow the new team to create a hybrid that melds the traditional fine-dining restaurant with their own vision, Matthews said. “It won’t be a complete abandonment of what we’re doing, but it is going to be their version of it,” he said.

In February 2020, Back Bay Grill got a 4½-star review from this paper. The next month, it closed for a time because of the pandemic. Matthews said the pandemic helped spark the management changes only in the sense that he and his staff, like just about everyone else, had time off in which to reflect on the shape of their lives, “so to say the pandemic didn’t have an effect on it wouldn’t necessarily be true. But to say it was a direct reason for the shift is not totally true either.”

Over the next three weeks, the restaurant will continue to serve customer favorites – such as the Lavender Marinated Duck Breast – and offering a three-course menu for $108.

The transition is expected to occur by mid-September. The new restaurant will continue to honor Back Bay Grill gift cards.

Back Bay Grill is located at 65 Portland St.

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