007: Jake J. Smith of The Black Birch

Ben Lord, Jake Smith, Gavin Beaudry
Ben Lord, Jake Smith, Gavin Beaudry

Today’s guest studied at Johnson and Wales and has held two chef de cuisine titles prior to embodying his role as ExecutiveChef at The Black Birch in Kittery, ME. The Black Birch is a Gastropub style eatery, which specializes in providing classic comfort foods that are also farm-to-fork friendly. The Black Birch has been describes as “as perfection on all levels.”

Show Notes…

Success/Leadership Quote or Mantra


Confidence and technique. If you have confidence you can do anything you put your mind to.  Technique is important because if you follow the same recipe and the same technique the outcome will always be the same. Consistency rules!

“IT” Factor

Overall vibe is a heart beat or pulse that comes from the nostalgic atmosphere. polish concrete floors, pine wood table tops, open kitchen concept, massive communal table and venal records playing in the background all contribute to this vibe.
Most importantly their sense of community that contributes to their success. They constantly publicly show support for their community. They believe in working for each other instead of against each other.


They don’t take reservations and they do not have a large space. This makes for the challenge of handling customers that have to deal with long wait times.

Black Birch is battling this challenge by reminding guest, that while they wait, they can take advantage of the art gallery next door and other communal activities that can help alleviate the wait.  Additionally, Chef Smith has been creative with developing menu items that are not time demanding.


Jake discusses the challenge of balancing friendship and being the boss as being a challenge for him as leader, but his incredible ability to set a continuously positive tone has served him well. His partners had this to say about him:

“Jake is a leader in the kitchen, a role-model behind the line and just about anywhere in the house. He brings an immeasurable energy, he is driven, is almost always in good spirits, is passionate about food and cooking it, and is contagious”

It is important for a leader to have these qualities, because they set the tone and those who follow will march to the same beat.

Lastly, they don’t freak out. When it gets busy they just handle it and remain calm. Leaders can’t get frazzled, they need to stay calm cool and collected.

Success Definition

Seeing a smile on his guests face, hearing that they’ve made a guests night and the ability to witness the happiness unfold.

On The Fly (speed round)
  • Hiring Tip
    When hiring a cook use a  method called “trailing” or “staging”. Have a candidate come in and be a part of the kitchen for an hour. This allows you to see what kind of skill set they have. This also allows the candidate to see what your operation is like and if they’ll be a good fit for your kitchen.
    Jake also suggests asking a cook how to make a hollandaise sauce. This is a simple, yet technical sauce. It is also a mother  sauce. Their answer should give you a pretty good idea of where their skill level is at.
  • Creative Incentive to Keep Employees
    Allow them to be creative. By doing this you are making your employees feel like they are a part of the success, which contributes hugely to their happiness.
  • Marketing Tactics, Tools or Trends
    Its not enough to be on social media with your restaurant, you need to treat your business social media account as if it is your personal social media accounts.
  • Restaurant or Business Book

The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection

  • Productivity, Efficiency, Profitability or Communication Gadget Tool or Service.
    Two resources to share documents:
    Google Drive
  • Best Business or Restaurant Advice
    You need to love what you do and be truly passionate. It will reflect in your product!
Contact Info

The Black Birch 

Facebook/Black Birch