Chris Welch, Kennebunk, Maine
Thirty-year-old lobsterman Chris Welch started fishing with his grandfather, and had his student’s license by the time he was eight. He got his own skiff at 14. He called it Shitpoke because, “I wasn’t allowed to swear around my grandmother, but ‘shitpoke’ was what we always called the blue herons, so I could get away with it,” he says. “At age 14, I thought it was kinda great.”
About lobstering: Welch says it’s not a job; it’s a lifestyle. “I love the freedom of it, and getting up and doing what I want to do everyday. And then there’s the challenge of it: When you’re young, you just haul traps—you don’t know what you’re doing. But as you get older, you start actually ‘fishing’ traps, and that makes a big difference.”
After he graduated from high school, Welch went to college for two years. “I went because everyone told me it’s what I should do. But I had known what I wanted to do since I was 14, so I was glad when I finally came back and started fishing full time.” He bought his grandfather’s boat, Kristy II, a 28-foot wooden boat built in Kennebunkport.
“As my grandfather got older, he started lobstering with me. He went with me right up until he couldn’t go anymore.” His grandfather passed away in 2008, but clearly left his love of fishing with Welch.
The boat he fishes out of now is the 35-foot Foolish Pride. That name also comes from his grandfather. “When I was younger, I was a little bit stubborn, and my grandfather always said my foolish pride would get the best of me.”
Welch lives in Kennebunk with his wife and son, and he fishes all year. Between fishing and being a new parent, he doesn’t have much free time, but he still manages to serve as a lieutenant with the local fire department and sit on the board of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association.
Jimmy Papadopoulos, Executive Chef, Bellemore, Chicago
New-shell lobster—from crustaceans that, in mid-summer, shed their hard shells for new ones and are considered a delicacy—lends itself well to many dishes. But one of Chef Jimmy Papadopoulos’s favorites is inspired by the lobster roll served at the Clam Shack in Kennebunkport, Maine. “The simplicity of gently butter-poaching the tender, sweet, Maine new-shell lobster meat and serving it on a pillowy-soft sweet roll that has been lightly griddled just cannot be beat,” he says.
The story of this dish is inspired by the tight-knit community where Clam Shack owner Steve Kingston and lobstermen like Chris Welch work so closely—Kingston’s restaurant is perched on a bridge over the water from which Welch pulls his lobsters.
When Papadopoulos met Kingston he said he felt his pride and love for the simplicity of his craft. His homage to Kingston’s dish is a roll piled high with the meat of a whole lobster and a good slathering of mayonnaise. Papadopoulos finishes it with a drizzle of butter before serving it to customers 1,500 miles away from the Maine coast, story still intact.