Mikael Andersson began his job as Lincoln Academy’s new head chef in June, and so far it has been relatively quiet. When school begins on August 30, the Lincoln Academy population will swell to over 600, and the job will get a whole lot bigger. But Andersson, who most recently worked as Colby College’s Executive Chef, is ready for the challenge.
“I love it here!” he says, looking around Lincoln Academy’s Alumni Dining Commons. “I can’t wait to meet all the kids!”
Andersson has been cooking his entire professional life, and for him, preparing food is not just a job. “My only hobby my whole life is food. When I am home I garden a lot… I love food, I love the simplicity of it.”
A native of Sweden, Andersson has lived in Wiscasset for 12 years with his wife, Kim, and two children, David, 12, and Linnea, 10. He has worked at many local eateries, including Bintliff’s Ocean Grill in Edgecomb and Le Garage in Wiscasset. He and Kim have been involved with Morris Farm in Wiscasset and F.A.R.M.S. in Damariscotta, among other community organizations.
Andersson has lived–and cooked–all over the world since leaving Sweden in his early twenties, including Hungary (where he met Kim at the Swedish Embassy in Budapest), Germany, Argentina, and New York City, before settling in Maine in 2004. “We feel like we struck gold when we found Maine.” The couple left New York when their son David was six months old, since, “neither of us wanted to raise kids in New York City. I love it here,” he says. “This is home.”
Andersson has gotten right to work at Lincoln Academy, reorganizing the kitchen, hiring staff, and designing a new sandwich bar for lunch hour, and planning menus for the school year. He has taken on a big job: he will be responsible for breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week for about 100 students and staff in LA’s residential community, as well as lunch on school days for approximately 600 students and staff. His kitchen staff of five has already been hired, and their shifts will be staggered to cover all three meals. Andersson himself will be on campus for lunch and dinner most days.
While most LA students are still enjoying summer vacation, the dining hall is already serving meals to about 30 dorm parents and residential athletes who are back on campus for pre-season sports.
Andersson is enjoying his new job. “I am excited about the closeness with students here at Lincoln. I am looking forward to being part of this community, and being able to make a difference in how we feed the students; not just open up a frozen box–we can make it here. We can implement local food here, we can buy vegetables from farms right around here.” Using local produce will be a “work in progress,” says Andersson, “since the growing season is short in Maine, and mostly happens when students are out of school for summer. But we will buy what we can: apples, root vegetables, squash, tomatoes” etc. from local farms.
Andersson is full of ideas for how to make the Lincoln Academy food safe, nourishing, and appealing for students and staff. He is fully trained to run an allergy- and celiac-safe kitchen, and will have vegetarian and vegan options at meals. He hopes parents who are concerned about their students’ diet will contact him (his email is posted on the Lincoln Academy website). “People should feel free to reach out to me. I am happy to answer any questions. At Colby I got emails all the time from parents whose children were leaving home for the first time, they had an allergy to dairy, or celiac, and they wanted to know what we could offer. I am used to that, and if parents reach out to me, I can help.”
The new chef also hopes to incorporate theme dinners (ethnic foods, holiday meals, winter beach party, etc.) and to work with local community organizations, including F.A.R.M.S. and Mobius. He has ideas for improving the Student Union that was opened last year. “I would like to have a smoothie and coffee bar,” he says. “I hope more students will choose to stay on campus for lunch and dinner,” since having good food and eating in in a community “helps build camaraderie.”
What about working with Lincoln Academy’s 85 international students? Andersson gives a big grin. “I’m international, I’m from Sweden. I’m still a foreigner, even though I’ve been here 20 years. It is fun to meet students from different cultures. It is exciting.”