Two New York City chefs are heading to the New England coast this April, and one of them isn’t returning to the Big Apple.
Chef Mathew Woolf trades the cityscape of Rockefeller Center’s legendary Rainbow Room for a seat by the sea when he takes over the kitchen at the famed restaurant White Barn Inn (Room rates from: $500 per night), Auberge Resorts Collection in Kennebunk on Maine’s south coast.
He’s also invited his friend, chef Ryan Hardy, to head north April 22-24 to showcase dishes from his acclaimed Italian-inspired restaurant Charlie Bird in Soho.
Charlie Bird at White Barn Inn is part of Auberge Resorts Collection’s Taste of Auberge series of 2022 cooking partnerships and restaurant pop-ups at its hotels.
“We’re going to cook together,” Woolf told The Post just days before starting his new job. “There is a pasta making and wine tasting class; and we’re doing Manhattan-style Sunday brunch. Me and Ryan have done events together before. It will be nice to have a friendly familiar face,” he added. “It’ll help me settle in a bit.”
Tickets range from $85 per person for the class to $165 per person for a five-course tasting menu.
Woolf’s itinerant career has taken him from the iconic 19th-century luxury hotel Claridge’s in his native England to Chicago and then to Los Angeles before finally ending up at the Rainbow Room. Now he’s looking forward to taking his cooking to the iconic White Barn Main Dining Room and Little Barn.
“Little Barn is more of a sophisticated rustic style. more relaxed. The main dining room will be the fine dining the White Barn is known for,” he said.
The dining room, lined with raw wood and rustic antiques, is a genuine two-story barn adjoining the 18th-century farmhouse that originally comprised the inn, which now includes garden sheds and nearby riverside cottages.
There are only 26 rooms and suites in total.
Woolf’s arrival comes at the end of a massive renovation of the entire property, which has seen the guest rooms upgraded from a classic, elegant design to a more textured, rustic-chic look featuring raffia, wood, and wicker furniture.
A highlight are the over-the-top luxury bathrooms with lush bathtubs that you won’t want to leave – until the dinner gong!
“This is an amazing property with a prestigious legacy,” agreed Woolf. “I hope to build on this incredible foundation and bring my flair to it.”
A big part of his flair is fish, he said: “When I started I was on the line at Claridge’s. New England seafood dishes will be a focus here, but I want to work on expressing them in different ways. I love cooking fish. I’ve already started talking to a local seaweed farmer and a shellfish farmer. I want to discover a lot more and get creative with it.”
He will also advance the plant ideals he picked up in California.
“In the UK, the dishes were protein based, while in California it was more product based,” he said. “I like building and building on seasonal vegetables in my dishes.”
The elegant communities of Kennebunk and Kennebunkport — known for Walker’s Point Estate (the Bush family home) and known as the Kennebunks — lie on either side of the Kennebunk River, which meanders into the Atlantic.
It’s an area and a lifestyle that Woolf, who hails from a British seaside town in Essex, a county east of London, knows well.
“I vacationed there for several summers and ate at the restaurant every time,” he recalls. “It’s a second home for me.”
But Woolf will miss his spunky team of friends at the Rainbow Room, he said.
“After eight years [leaving my team is] the saddest thing about moving. But I feel like I’m going back to my roots.”