White Barn Inn Chef Mathew Woolf,  displaying a chocolate tart topped with passionfruit mousse, paused for an interview recently as the inn marks its 50th anniversary. Tammy Wells photo

KENNEBUNK – People have been coming to White Barn Inn for decades.

Now, the familiar Beach Avenue landmark, famous for being a lovely place to stay and for its AAA Five Diamond dining, is marking its 50th year as White Barn Inn. Chef Mathew Woolf, an Englishman who worked at Claridge’s Hotel and at the Ritz Hotel in London, as executive chef at Gordon Ramsey restaurants in Los Angeles and most recently at the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center in New York, is working his culinary magic to help celebrate.

He has honed his skill from his early years – including an early stint at Claridge’s, initially at the fish station.

“The hours were long and hard; but the chef saw something in me,” he said at a recent interview at the inn.

He moved on to the Ritz and recalled one year in the mid-2000s preparing a birthday dinner for Queen Elizabeth II and 400 guests at Buckingham Palace.

He remembers starting the day at 2 a.m. and winding down about 24 hours later – but it was worth it.


These days, he is at the helm of the two dining rooms at White Barn Inn and enjoying it.

Everyone is welcome to partake in wonderful food, thoughtfully prepared, in the White Barn Inn Restaurant or in the Little Barn, the latter where a three-course, prix-fixe meal, for $35 per person, runs until the end of April. Reservations are suggested.

White Barn Inn is marking its 50th anniversary this year. Courtesy photo/White Barn Inn

How did Woolf get to Maine, and Kennebunk in particular?

Well, the same way others do – he started visiting on long weekends, and when the opportunity at White Barn Inn came his way, Woolf took it, beginning his duties in April 2022.

“For me it was the restaurant,” and its Diamond reputation, said Woolf.

Being on the doorstep of the Atlantic Ocean, there is always fish and shellfish on the menu; at present halibut, monkfish, lobster, pollock and skate are among the selections.


At a recent “Duet Dinner,” by Woolf and former White Barn Chef (1989-92) Ed Gannon, roasted venison was among the dishes featured, as was Dover sole, among others. In the main restaurant, where prices are more elevated at $165 prix-fixe, suckling pig, crispy quail, and butter-poached halibut were among the menu offerings.

The $35 prix-fixe menu in The Little Barn features an array of dishes, from mushroom tart to pan-seared pollock, braised short rib, and more.

“The shining star is the dining room,” said Woolf of  the inn, but he pointed out the hotel also provides breakfast and lunch, provisions for picnics, and summer lobster bakes.

Everything, from the crackers to bread to cookies and desserts – like chocolate tart with passionfruit mousse, are made in-house.

Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Arundel Chamber of Commerce Director Laura Dolce recently dined at White Barn Inn Restaurant for the Duet Dinner featuring chefs Woolf and Gannon.

“The food was extraordinary – and I expected that – but the service was so stellar that it just elevated everything,” said Dolce.  It wasn’t fussy or contrived, just attentive and educational and perfect. And any night you get served three desserts is a good one.”


She said the space is comfortable and accessible. “If you sit in the living room of the main inn building you can see guests in suits and dresses waiting to go into dinner, but also people in jeans and sneakers playing games at one of the tables. There’s just a beautiful comfort to that.”

White Barn Inn, a year-round hotel with 27 guest accommodations, has been owned since 2018 by Auberge Resorts Collection, but its history goes back more than 100 years. It was home to summer boarders during the Civil War era in the 1860s, known then as Boothby Boarding House. It later became a hotel, called Forest Hill House in 1937. Fifty years ago,  1973, it was renovated and restored, and became White Barn Inn. Refreshed in 2020, White Barn Inn sports a swimming pool, spa, and guests can choose from an array of classes. Couples marry at the inn.

Woolf, who will have a staff of about a dozen at the height of the season, said his mission is to move the restaurants at White Barn Inn forward even more, taking dishes that have been and are good, and making them even better. He spoke of refreshing the food a bit, taking something as simple as butter, for example, and creating tomato butter or wild garlic butter – changing up, as he calls it.

“It sets the tone, the thought that goes into it,” Woolf said.

In addition to upcoming Duet Dinners, there are The Little Barn prix-fixe dinners, specials for Maine residents staying at the inn through May 25, a Mother’s Day Tea May 12 and other events to mark 50 years.

“Today, when many businesses don’t succeed the first year, let alone for decades, it’s a pleasure to be celebrating its 50th anniversary,” said Dolce.

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