BANGOR, Maine — If you want fries with that Five Guys Burgers and Fries meal, Maine’s congressional delegation wants them to be fries made from Maine-grown potatoes.
U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins joined Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree in calling on the owners of the Five Guys Burgers and Fries franchises in Maine to use Maine-grown potatoes at all of their restaurants.
Snowe, Collins, Michaud and Pingree all signed a letter via e-mail and sent it to Bangor and Portland Five Guys franchise owners Gene Prentice and Jamal Bourdoute on Tuesday, urging them to consider purchasing Maine-grown potatoes and support a quality, locally grown product.
Prentice and Bourdoute opened Maine’s first Five Guys franchise in Portland’s old port in April, 2011, and will open another one in Bangor at 878 Stillwater Ave. in either late winter or early spring, depending on the construction timetable.
The letter was the end result of a random office lunch run Willy Ritch, Pingree’s communications director, made to the Five Guys Portland franchise this past summer.
“They have the bags of potatoes stacked up right there in the lobby with Idaho stamped on them, and there was also a sign on the wall that said something about ‘today’s potatoes come from Idaho,’ and I started thinking how wrong that was for a place in Maine,” said Ritch, a Houlton native who started picking potatoes at the age of 11 and worked his way up to become a truck driver before he finished.
Ritch, who spent six harvest breaks in the fall helping harvest potatoes at two local farms, was tempted to ask an employee why the potatoes weren’t from Maine, but was in a hurry.
“I had my cheeseburger in my hand and wanted to get out of there and get back and eat it, so I didn’t say anything, but I did mention it to Chellie later on and she said something the effect of there’s no reason they can’t be using Maine potatoes for their fries,” Ritch recalled. “She said we should do something about that.”
A few months later, Pingree, and the rest of Maine’s Washington, D.C. delegation is doing something about it.
Snowe highlighted Maine potatoes’ superior taste and quality, while Michaud pointed out that making fries from Maine potatoes would provide new opportunities for Maine’s potato farmers.
Pingree said using Maine potatoes guarantees fresh ingredients, a major emphasis of the Five Guys Burgers and Fries brand, and Collins observed that Maine potatoes would help limit transportation costs.
Attempts to reach Prentice by phone Tuesday afternoon and evening for comment were unsuccessful.