Liz Evans’s chef career has been far reaching
Liz Evans has gone from chef on a private yacht to offering many delicious items including sandwiches, pizza, coffee, fresh baked goods and a daily dinner entree to patrons of East Boothbay General Store, where she is owner-chef.
Many customers greet her by name and she, in turn, has brief conversations with each about local happenings. Though Evans is not from Boothbay originally, it is where she now considers home. Many of her close family members are here now, too, including her parents and many cousins.
She was born in Cape Cod and moved with her family to Germany shortly after because her father was in the Army. When she was 2, her family moved back to the U.S., settling in Ossining, New York just north of the city on the Hudson River. When she was 12, she moved to Atlanta, Georgia where she lived until she was 18. At this point, she left home to attend Pine Manor College in Boston where she majored in history and minored in art. After two years, she left Boston, moving to New Orleans to attend Loyola University. There, she continued her studies in history and art while working for a picture framer. She enjoyed her time in New Orleans. Said Evans, “It’s famous for its history and its food!”
Evans moved back to Boston after finishing college in 1994 and continued to work as a picture framer there. She enjoyed traveling, like to California to open new stores for her employer.
Feeling the need for a change, Evans left Boston four years later and moved to East Boothbay where her parents were now living. She enjoyed a summer working at Boothbay Greenhouse for Kitty and Bob Boyd arranging flowers but left in the fall for Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Hearing from friends who were working there, she packed up her old Volvo station wagon and headed down to pursue an opportunity working as a deckhand, something she had experience with in the Boothbay area and wanted to continue doing. Next, Evans got her lucky break and her first experience working as a chef.
Evans was hired as a chef on a 120-foot, private yacht by its captain who recognized how hard she worked as a deckhand, telling her he liked hiring people from Maine because they “know how to work.” She would now be responsible for preparing three meals a day, with wine pairings, for guests on the yacht while traveling the Caribbean and Mediterranean. “It was amazing!”
Evans continued to work as a chef on private yachts for about seven years when pressure from her parents “to get a real job” brought her back to Maine. She went back to school to become a nurse, painting and doing demolition for Knickerbocker in the winter and doing some cooking in the summer. During this time, she got a phone call from a friend about a special job opportunity. Evans was hired as a chef to work on a boat belonging to Jimmy Buffet.
In 2006, Evans moved back to East Boothbay hoping to start a catering business. The general store had been shuttered for a year and was up for auction. Evans and her husband at the time bought the store before it went to auction, spent several months renovating it and opened for business in January 2007.
Evans lives above the store with her children, Sabine and Astrid. When asked what a typical day looks like, she credited her employee Gail Dudley with getting things going in the store in the morning. Coming in as early as 3 a.m. some days, Dudley does the baking, gets the coffee going and fires up the ovens that can take up to an hour and a half before they are ready to be used. Evans gets her children off to school and is in the store before it opens at 8.
Evans said one of her biggest challenges and her greatest joy has been hiring people. Employing 18-22 employees during the summer season, she is “willing to pay a good wage.” Said Evans, “It’s like a little family. Essentially, these people are in my home. My kids are around. It’s a total team.”
When asked about her plans for the future, Evans said her dream would be to have sushi available at the store. “I’d love to have someone in here making sushi. I think it would sell.” She also thinks about what will be next. “I won’t be here forever but when I leave I will have been the longest owner of the store.” She talked about possibly opening another place doing oysters in the summer and Ramen and chicken wings in the off season.
“You walk a line between good enough and proud of it. I just don’t sleep well with good enough. I want to be really proud of what we’re doing.”