Clockwise from top left:
Cast Iron Half Chicken: Locally raised chicken,
wild rice, house cured lardons, local mushrooms,
fermented leek and pearl onion poulet glacé.
Tempura Cauliflower: Crispy rice battered
cauliflower, sweet and spicy gochujang glaze,
Poutine: Crispy pommes pavé, molten cheddar
curds, house made veal demi-glace, scallion.
Co-Owner + Chef Jason LaVerdiere.
Everybody within driving distance of Lisbon Falls is talking about Flux. Taco Tuesdays, Dollar Dumpling Wednesday, Ramen Thursdays are bringing the crowds to 12 Maine St. But it’s more than the lure of inexpensive dumplings and a child-friendly atmosphere. There is real craft behind that stove. Co-Owner + Chef Jason LaVerdiere wends his way through the bevy of local, seasonal ingredients to craft a cuisine with true crowd appeal. His plating is intricate and purposeful without being overbearing or precious, for LaVerdiere, flavor is clearly king. Dishes such as Octopus Kushiyaki, the koji-marinated Crispy Chicken and the Hokkiado Milk Bun (made in house) on the Flux Burger belie a penchant for Asian techniques and ingredients that he seamlessly threads through a menu that is decidedly modern Maine.
Ali Waks Adams: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Chef Jason LaVerdiere: I grew up in the Winslow/Waterville area. My father lived on China Lake, my mother in Winslow. I graduated from Winslow High School. I’ve been cooking for 25 years and cooking professionally since 2006.
What do you love about being a chef?
I love having the ability every day to surpass peoples’ expectations. I love converting people who don’t think they like certain ingredients and make them love them. I love the creative process and the infinite possibilities when you multiply ingredients by techniques. And I love working with an artistic medium as multidimensional as food is. It is one of the few things that captivates all of your senses. I can manipulate ingredients to make someone feel joy, to evoke a memory from their past, or to experience something completely new. That’s why I love being a chef.
What is the most popular dish at Flux?
The poutine appetizer is very popular. It is poutine on steroids, basically. I’ve swapped out the traditional French fries for pommes pavé (layers of potatoes and cream, baked, compressed, chilled, unmolded, cut into cubes, fried). Instead of ordinary gravy, we use a veal glaze (roasted veal bones cooked for 24 hours, strained and reduced to a syrup). And we serve this in a small cast-iron pan where the cheddar curds are melted onto the crispy pommes pavé and finished with veal demi-glace and scallions.
What is the best compliment someone can give you about the restaurant and/or your food?
The best compliment for me is when someone says “that was the best _______ I’ve ever had.” I also love when people thank me for opening up in Lisbon Falls, making delicious, locally sourced food available to them.
How do you juggle being the owner of Flux and also its chef?
Luckily, I don’t own it by myself. My brother and business partner Tyson LaVerdiere deals with all of the non-food-related challenges and also manages the dining room.
You have a Sunday off, there are hints of spring in the air—what do you cook?
Anything over charcoal and probably pasta salad. When I’m not in
the restaurant, I keep cooking simple. It has to be easy and my three kids have to like it or it’s not successful. I still do enjoy cooking at home.
It’s nice to prepare food in a completely different context than the restaurant.
What is your best kitchen prank, either one you’ve played or has been played on you?
Beet nuoc cham—beet purée, fish sauce, garlic, chilis, thickened with a slurry. Color and texture of blood, exactly. I was feeling mischievous and sent Kyle, one of the cooks, running for the first aid kit after showing him a palm full of beet nuoc chom, gripping my wrist to slow down the saucing. In the panicked 30 seconds or so he was gone, the kitchen staff added a couple more generous servings to the carnage. Kyle was in shock for the rest of night, I think. It wasn’t a very nice joke.
Are there any words or phrases you find yourself using all the time?
Corner, behind, sharp, hot.
What are your guilty pleasures?
I have a weak spot for Skittles and Starburst. Once I start eating them I can’t stop, so I don’t keep them around.
It’s 4:45 on a Saturday, the place is booked solid. What’s your GO song?
Queen, “Don’t Stop Me Now.”
Do you have a cause you feel particularly strong about? Why?
Using local, seasonal produce. Sure, there are some exceptions in the restaurant. I use lemons, limes and oranges. Our bar has pineapple juice, we brew coffee, and bake with chocolate. But the overwhelming majority of our product comes from local farms. It creates parameters in which we have to create dishes as our growing season in Maine is short, but working with some rules in place actually elicits creativity and always favors a superior product.
Some may look at cabbage, think “cole slaw,” and that’s it. But there are actually dozens of delicious ways to reinvent the most humble ingredients. Using local, seasonal produce goes against the grain as consumers are groomed to expect to buy tomatoes and green beans in November. I’m growing further and further away from that mentality. It’s not a new way of thinking. It’s the way it was before modern consumerism, which has a negative impact on the environment, tends to create waste and does not favor the local economy.
Do you have an ingredient that you are absolutely in love with for spring?
Fiddleheads are my favorite springtime ingredient. Not only are they delicious, but they define the end of winter and the start of Maine’s lush growing season. They bring back a lot of childhood memories for me. We ate them many times during their short spring season.
Is there a technique, a dish or a cuisine that you have yet to master but have always wanted to?
Integrating koji into my cooking has been something that I’ve been working on a lot in the past couple of years. The applications are endless and the intense umami flavors we can draw from ingredients via the enzymes in koji are staggering. I have in no way mastered using koji and foresee it being a lifelong journey of discovery.
What would your last meal be?
A perfect cheeseburger.
12 Main St.
Lisbon Falls, Maine