CHEBEAGUE ISLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - When Matt Ginn was growing up, his first job was picking strawberries at Maxwell’s Farm in his hometown of Cape Elizabeth. The pay, he says, wasn’t bad. “Forty cents a quart. I remember it vividly. And I was fourteen. I was in the 8th grade.”

His next stops in the food world were grocery stores in Cape Elizabeth and South Portland. From there he moved to restaurants, where he washed dishes and eventually started cooking. After graduating from Cheverus High School in Portland, he went to college, soon dropped out, and quickly realized he needed, in his words, “a new trajectory.”

What followed was the job that changed his life, and he found it in an unexpected place—an Outback Steakhouse in the vast, sun-baked sprawl of Phoenix, Arizona. “I just fell in love with the adrenaline and the speed of the kitchen,” he says. During his job interview, the manager asked him where he’d worked before. “I mentioned some restaurants in South Portland where I’d prep cooked, and he asked, ‘What’s a busy night?’ And I said, oh, in the summer in Maine we’ll do 250 people. And he looked at me and he said, ‘Matt, we’ll do 250 people in an hour.’ “

Cranking out steaks and burgers at that Outback turned out to be valuable training for Ginn, who now work sixty to eighty hours a week overseeing the kitchens at Evo in Portland and the Chebeague Island Inn. One of the rare times of the day when he can relax is on the ferry to and from Chebeague, although he often cracks open a cookbook during the crossing. When he finally gets home around midnight after a day that may have started at 8:00 a.m., he likes to unwind with a glass of wine. And what else helps him to relax at that hour in a quiet house? You guessed it: he opens up…a cookbook.