SHERMAN, Maine — Two classically trained chefs with a will to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds are creating a quirky new restaurant in a purple 130-year-old Victorian house in Sherman.
Jon Purdy and Jenny MacArthur, who focus on locally sourced food, are experts at turning what some might view as disasters into something better.
When Purdy injured his shoulder and could not work, the two chefs, who are married, started Salted Butter Farm, delivering complete dinners to clients in the Newburgh area. When they lost everything in a house fire in 2017, they rebuilt their home on the same property, plus a commercial kitchen in the basement with eight standing freezers to accommodate their rapidly expanding business.
But last year, even they were temporarily stymied.
The couple realized Salted Butter Farm could not expand beyond their 40 clients, so the two chefs decided to open a restaurant in the Patten area because Jenny’s parents live in Shin Pond.
Salted Butter Farm has more than 7,000 Facebook followers and their original clients from the Newburgh Salted Butter Farm delivery days have stayed with them, excited about making the trip to Sherman for the new restaurant, they said.
“Once I cook for you, you are my family,” said MacArthur, who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. “Love is the No. 1 ingredient and I cook with my heart.”
In Patten, the couple put a deposit on what they thought was the perfect home for their restaurant and residence. And with a signed contract in hand, Jon and Jenny and their three children were excited about a new adventure.
Nonetheless, similar to what has happened to many home buyers since the COVID-19 pandemic, at the eleventh hour after they had already sold their Newburgh home, the owner backed out of the contract. The property was sold to another buyer who gave a higher offer and paid with cash.
With nowhere to go, the Purdy-MacArthur family moved into Jenny’s generational home in Shin Pond. Her parents moved into the in-law apartment. As part of the deal, Jon and Jenny cook for her parents, she said.
The search for a restaurant property continued and in February, they found the historic A.B. Leavitt home on Gardiner Street in Sherman. This nearly 4,000-square-foot 1890 Victorian will have three dining rooms, a family with kids dining room and they are just finishing a new commercial kitchen built off one side of the home.
They made an offer on the Sherman property during last year’s 65-degree-below-zero cold snap. But the owner at the time had a heart attack and was unable to check on the house. Despite having the heat on at 55 degrees Fahrenheit the pipes in the home froze and the radiators and plumbing exploded, they said.
“A neighbor came in and checked on it and shut off all the water before there was major damage,” Purdy said. “All this worked out to be a blessing.”
The new Salted Butter Farm restaurant is like an Alice in Wonderland mismatched tale of vintage china from grandmothers, aunts and long-forgotten attics. There’s a hidden Harry Potter cupboard for kids under the stairs, original Tiffany chandeliers, refurbished and off-beat light switches, and a farm market store with Salted Butter Farms frozen meals to go.
The six-page menu includes elegant catch-of-the-day offerings, daily specials from around the globe, a Carbie Doll breakfast plate, the Fan Freaking Tastic fries, a daily Chicken Sammich Special and dinners from family recipes — not to forget the Shark Coochie Board special because nobody can really say charcuterie.
Perhaps most unusual is that most menu offerings can be prepared as vegetarian, vegan or gluten free, they said, adding that MacArthur is a certified vegan chef. Everyone deserves real, good food and they are not ashamed that they use lots of real butter, they said.
In between scraping layers and layers of wallpaper, replacing all the historic radiators, building the commercial kitchen, refinishing floors, painting and creating the menu, the couple has been donating pies and even cooking breakfast for local events. Community is key and they donate products, or time whenever possible, they said.
The final details include finishing the new plumbing to get the water running again and installing the new radiators before final inspections. Once they get up and running, they said they will hire between five and 10 people.
The two chefs had hoped for a Labor Day opening but that’s not possible.
“We hope to be open before Halloween, but definitely before the snow flies,” they said.