Grandpa's Kitchen features traditional recipes made with care

By Kendra Caruso | Dec 11, 2019
Photo by: Kendra Caruso Michael Raven sips coffee at his new restaurant, Grandpa's Kitchen, in Belfast Dec. 9, where he serves his traditionally smoked meats.

Belfast — The first time Michael Raven stuffed sausages at 8 years old, he opened the smoke shack doors to find all the filling had burst out of its casing. He had forgotten to cool the meat first. He has learned to be more painstaking about the process his German grandfather taught him growing up.

Now a grandfather himself, he wants to share the smoked meat dishes that have been handed down through his family for as far back as he can trace at Grandpa’s Kitchen, his new breakfast and lunch spot on Spring Street. It is his first restaurant endeavor, outside of his smoked meat shop in Pittsfield called Grandpa’s Specialty Smoked Meats.

He was taught traditional meat smoking and cooking practices by his German grandfather and Italian grandmother, who settled on their farm in Thorndike during the 1930s. He grew up in the town, where his parents and most of his extended family owned farms.

“The sausage I make, that was handed down to my grandfather, and it was his grandfather’s recipe,” Raven said. “…. My grandmother was the same way. Her recipes were from her grandmother.”

As a boy, he stood on a chair in his grandmother’s kitchen as she taught him how to make pasta, sauces and pastry dishes from scratch, all of which are served at his new location. Pair that with his grandfather’s smoked meat recipes, and it is the ultimate comfort food, he said.

The cooking traditions he practices were developed before chemical preservatives and sweeteners and genetically modified food, so he said he uses none of those in his cooking.

Raven's predominantly local and organic ingredients offer healthier food choices compared to modern canned or boxed items that people have become accustomed to. The longer the cooking process, the better the product, he said.

Every ingredient in the process is well thought out, right down to the type of butter used – a vat of margarine is nowhere to be found in his kitchen. Much of what he uses comes from vendors at the United Farmers Market on Spring Street, where he also has a food stand on Saturdays.

“The guy at the farmers market, I buy a lot of meat from him,” Raven said. “Briskets, hamburg, because it tastes so good – there’s no comparison to taste. Especially in the farmhouse coffee we buy from Mikey in the Farmers Market, it’s good coffee.”

Smoked items like ham, turkey, chicken, beef and even macaroni and cheese can be found on his menu. He has an assortment of different smoked bacon, maple bourbon flavor being a customer favorite, but without the nitrites and high sodium, he said. He uses celery salt to preserve his meat and fight bacteria that would spoil it.

His process and ingredients push the cost of his food up, but he thinks it is a small price to pay compared to the health risks associated with consuming chemically and genetically enhanced foods, he said.

“If you don’t change the way you eat, you’ll be paying for it one way or another,” Raven said.

He retired from Cianbro, where he worked as a fabrication inspector after 34 years. While there, he would sell his smoked meats to coworkers. After retirement, he decided to take his food public and has curated a space for people to eat healthy food that tastes good in a welcoming space where they can talk to each other.

He already has a few regulars who come to start the day with a cup of coffee before ordering some of his smoked meats and engaging in friendly conversation.

“It all starts up with a good cup of coffee,” Raven said. “That sets the stage for breakfast.”

He said he likes to give all customers his full attention and respect when he is interacting with them. Suggestions are welcomed and he will accommodate any customer request if he can.

“When people come in, I like to make them feel right at home,” Raven said. “Enjoy the food, the atmosphere, music and leave happy with a good experience.”

Grandpa’s Kitchen is located at 18 Miller St. and is open Sunday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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