PORTLAND, Maine — Things are heating up in the CVC Catering kitchen. One of the finest sources for culinary events in Portland has added a fresh face to their lineup: Executive Chef Todd Belanger will now be developing a range of new dishes to add to CVC’s award-winning menu. Coming from Portsmouth, N.H., Belanger has spent nearly his entire working life in the restaurant industry, cooking his way across the country and back before settling down in New England.
“I’ve been working in the kitchens since I was 13 years old. I got my first job as a dishwasher,” says Belanger in a press release, referencing his first job at Anthony’s Al Dente (now Ristorante Massimo) in Portsmouth. By the time he was 25, Belanger had advanced to the kitchen manager position at Muddy River Smokehouse, also in Portsmouth. From there, he moved on to work under Providence’s top Italian chef, Pat Orlando. “That’s where I really learned that food was my passion,” he says. Shortly thereafter, Belanger received his first executive chef position at The Deck House Cabaret Theater in Mount Desert Island, where he was able to develop his own menus for the first time.
Belanger’s story only gets better from there, taking him all the way to California, where he worked as Sous Chef at the Feather Falls Casino in Oroville. “Seven years and a couple jobs later, I came back to New England,” he says, where for the last two summers he has been working at Tides Beach Club in Kennebunkport. In keeping with CVC’s White House connections (CVC catered First Lady Michelle Obama’s fundraising reception in 2011), Belanger cooked for former first lady Barbara Bush and former President George H.W. Bush. “They demanded to meet the man responsible for their best meal in Maine,” he jokes, “I took my picture with George and he signed and sent it to me… great ego strokes there.”
In his work so far with CVC, Belanger says, “My favorite part is that it’s never the same menu. Every month, I’ll be developing new entrees, appetizers, and desserts, all based on whatever is in season.” He credits his long history of working in different styles of restaurants with allowing his creations to not be tied to any specific genre. Instead, he pays close attention to the changes in the culinary scene when developing new items, and notes that much of his inspiration has come from the work of late superstar chef Charlie Trotter. “It helps me rekindle ideas I may have forgotten, and allows me to put my own twist on dishes with overtones of Maine,” he says.