NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

April 9, 2014

A taste of fame

Port chef and restaurateur earn culinary awards

European bistro Ceia Kitchen and Bar has received two “Rising Star” awards from StarChefs.com, a restaurant industry trends magazine.

Competing against more than 150 coastal New England culinary masters, executive chef Patrick Soucy has been honored in a category with 13 other chefs, while owner/founder Nancy Batista-Caswell received the magazine’s sole restaurateur award.

Ceia, Portuguese for “supper,” is a relatively recent addition to the Newburyport landscape, having opened in 2010 at 25 State St. After packing the house for several years, Batista-Caswell decided in 2012 that Ceia had outgrown the 52-seat space. Her husband, Jeff Caswell, offered up a new location across the street, where he owned The Rockfish.

Ceia pulled up stakes and began construction that year, opening in January 2013 with 150 seats, a third-floor bar and an intimate alleyway entrance. In its place, Batista-Caswell built Brine, the oyster bar that she continues to own and operate.

Ceia pulls its menu largely from regional farms and suppliers, following an internal motto of “Treat it like you grew it,” according to Soucy. Soucy regularly visits his suppliers’ farms and watches his ingredients grow, even before their seeds are sown.

“When I get the harvest and I bring it to the restaurant, I really drive my staff: ‘You can’t screw that up. I’ve seen this thing grow,’” he said. “There’s not a disconnect where it just came off the truck and it’s on your plate.”

With a menu that changes every eight weeks, it’s important that Ceia stays ahead of the season, constantly checking on upcoming harvests.

“If you’re not paying attention to when the strawberries are going to be ready ... by the time you get the ball rolling, they’re going to be out-of-season,” Soucy said. “You just cheated your customers out of that because you didn’t have an idea.”

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