Portland Wine Week Chef Feature: Mimi Weissenborn of Sur Lie


Meet Chef Mimi Weissenborn, the culinary powerhouse behind Sur Lie in the vibrant city of Portland, Maine. Hailing from the humble state of Maryland, Chef Mimi's path to becoming an esteemed chef was paved with determination, unexpected twists, and a deep love for cooking. Her story is one of resilience, self-discovery, and a relentless pursuit of culinary excellence.

As a teenager, Mimi found herself drawn to the fast-paced world of restaurants. She got her first taste of the culinary industry by working at a local pizza joint during high school. Back then, she never imagined that those early experiences would shape her future. After graduating, she enrolled in community college with dreams of becoming a Physical Education teacher. However, it didn't take long for her to realize that teaching wasn't her true calling.

In the midst of figuring out her life's path, Chef Mimi had a revelation. Cooking had always been a part of her life, something she was good at and enjoyed. With a leap of faith, she decided to pursue her passion and enrolled in culinary school at L'Academie de Cuisine in Maryland. The two-year course marked the beginning of her formal culinary training, and she threw herself into it with unwavering determination.

After culinary school, she spent five years working in various restaurants in Maryland, building her skills and climbing the ranks. But she knew that if she wanted to take her talent to the next level, she had to make the move to New York City. With her best friend by her side, she packed her bags and headed for the Big Apple.

Arriving in New York, she found work at a bakery. However, her culinary journey took her through a multitude of kitchens and eateries as she explored different roles and cuisines. It was a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, but she never gave up. Eventually, she found her footing and dedicated eight years of her life to a restaurant where her passion and creativity thrived.

But life had a way of throwing curveballs, and Chef Mimi's dream of opening her own restaurant was put on hold when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Faced with uncertainty and challenges, she made the difficult decision to leave New York. Seeking a safe haven and a better quality of life, she found herself in Maine, drawn by the connection her partner had with relatives in the area.

Maine proved to be a revelation for her. In the midst of a global crisis, she discovered a newfound appreciation for a slower pace of life and began questioning the demanding work culture she had experienced in New York. She realized that her love for cooking remained unwavering, and Portland, Maine, offered an opportunity to live a life that truly made her happy.

When asked about her favorite dish from her own menu, Chef Mimi recalled "les moules frites," a dish that recently left the menu. Inspired by her trips to the area, this dish was a delightful take on muscle escabeche. Brined muscles sat atop a crispy potato rosti, creating a bite-sized explosion of flavors. It perfectly embodied her belief in simple yet elevated dishes that speak to the heart and palate.

Chef Mimi's philosophy towards food is rooted in a deep sense of familial love and passion. She often refers to herself as an "elevated grandmother," infusing her dishes with that special touch of care and attention that comes from cooking for loved ones. Her focus is on creating delicious, comforting meals that bring people together, all while adding a touch of finesse to the presentation.

Chef Mimi Weissenborn's journey is a testament to the power of following one's passion and embracing the unexpected. Through hard work, resilience, and a deep love for cooking, she has carved out a place for herself in the culinary world. Her story inspires us to never give up on our dreams and to always find joy in the simple act of sharing a delicious meal with those we care about.



Wine Wise