Corinne Boet-Whitaker (’14)Corinne Boet-Whitaker (’14)

Two salads, said Bronwyn. One soup. No flatbread. … But the house was warm finally, with the oven opening and closing like a whale’s ribbed cavern-mouth and so many people coming in and out and leaning into each other to smile, isn’t this fun (she found a clean bowl and filled it generously with the squash soup she had helped to make earlier, first slicing the squash then accidentally herself so Addie took up the knife and she started making flatbreads instead), we’ve turned the house into a restaurant. The roasted seeds were thrown on and she handed Bronwyn the bowl, turning now to Hannah who had an order for two desserts, one of each please, and thank you friend. 

— from Eloise’s short story “Roost”

My first experience with The Restaurant began at the kitchen table on 1st South Street. I was still a prospective student, just up to visit friends for the weekend. People were drifting in and out of the room, pulling up chairs around the small table to help scheme up a menu for the next day. In a short twenty-four hours, the house would be transformed from a residence for six students into a bustling venue for about seventy-five students, faculty, and staff. The evening, heralded as the “Grand One Night Opening of a one-time restaurant,” showed me a side of COA that I fell instantly in love with. And I wasn’t the only one.

“I just sort of showed up,” said Nicole Gaylor ’14, who has been involved with the Restaurant since her first term at COA. “Addie [Namnoun ’14] and Chloe [Cekada ’14] were like, ‘Hey! You like to cook? You should do this thing with us.’” Nicole’s interest in flavor pairings helped to pitch the balance of seasonal realities with gleaning possibilities. The ice cream in that night’s dessert was flavored with Labrador tea from Sunken Heath, a bog at the center of Mount Desert Island.

Squash ravioli in sage-browned butter with rainbow chard.Squash ravioli in sage-browned butter with rainbow chard.The Restaurant (also known as the Coop Coöp) has been an annual, student-organized event since its conception in 2012. In those two years it has served more than five hundred members of the COA community and raised over four thousand dollars to support Share the Harvest, a program run through Beech Hill Farm that provides access to fresh organic produce for those receiving SNAP and WIC benefits ( The goal of the Restaurant is to provide full, whole nourishment to both volunteers and guests. Whether you come to taste the food or to lend a hand at washing dishes, serving tables, playing music, or preparing and plating food, you are welcome at the Restaurant.

In a 2012 documentary made by Devin Altobello ’13 about the Restaurant (, Lally Owen ’14 commented, it’s about “eating not just to eat, but more consciously feeding yourself and other people. Kind of the idea of being held by something that you make, or holding other people and giving that way.” The Restaurant serves as a community catalyst: an opportunity to connect over food, support each other’s passions and projects, and celebrate our work together.

COA information technology systems manager, with former Beech Hill Farm manager Alisha Strater and former assistant manager Jerzy Skupny (’11)COA information technology systems manager, with former Beech Hill Farm manager Alisha Strater and former assistant manager Jerzy Skupny (’11)Students, staff, faculty, and community members work together to create the event, which has a different locale each time. In the weeks before, emails fly back and forth regarding farm culls, foraging excursions, and closets stacked with jars of kombucha and yogurt. In the morning, an off-campus student residence is cleaned and prepared to seat up to sixty guests at a time. The afternoon is spent gathering tables and chairs, while several kitchens across Bar Harbor are orchestrated to the tune of boiling stock pots, chopping produce, rolling pasta dough, and melting chocolate.

The work that goes into the Restaurant itself is hard to quantify. When spending hours juggling hats (in some cases, literally), one’s periphery turns into a blur of food, flushed faces, and the tangled sounds of music and conversation. “After sixteen hours of work in those two days, we were so beat that it felt like our feet had turned to pulp,” said Nicole. “Addie came out to the couch in the front yard with a fishbox full of warm water and lavender. When we put our feet in that box we all made the same face, which is probably too inappropriate to describe.”

Tomas Von Carolsfeld ’14 plays a tune on his ukuleleTomas Von Carolsfeld ’14 plays a tune on his ukuleleWhat I remember most from each event are the flavors of particular moments and the people with whom they were created: Lally’s garlic butter, Addie’s ravioli, Nicole’s window radishes. I remember the first time that I killed a chicken and watched its blood disappear into the soil at Beech Hill Farm. I remember squeezing custard into countless cannolis with a makeshift decorating bag. Going out with Lisa Bjerke ’13 and Erickson Smith ’15 in the canoe to gather cranberries. Washing carrots in a bathtub. Singing rounds while scrubbing dishes in a sink full of hot, sudsy water. Crooning “Pure Imagination” into a microphone for guests crammed into a den-turned-dining hall. I remember Janoah Bailin ’14, our circus artist extraordinaire, wobbling on his unicycle down a narrow hallway while trafficking dirty dishes back to the kitchen. Waltzing on sore feet to a ukulele chorus. Sprawling on the kitchen floor at the end of the night, dizzy with exhaustion and incredulous joy. Saying with the others: “All of us, together, made that happen.”

Save & Share: