Co-owner and executive chef Jason LaVerdiere stands Thursday outside his Flux Restaurant and Bar at 12 Main St. in Lisbon Falls, celebrating its fifth year in business. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

LISBON — You do not have to be a classically trained chef to be nominated for a James Beard Award. You just have to be really good at what you do.

Jason LaVerdiere, the executive chef and co-owner of Flux Restaurant and Bar in Lisbon Falls, was named a semifinalist for Best Chef, Northeast, by the James Beard Foundation in January.

The award is among the most prestigious and significant recognition for chefs, restaurateurs and the millions of people who toil away in kitchens and at catering halls across the United States.

The nonprofit organization said its mission is to celebrate, support and elevate the people behind America’s food culture and champion a standard of good food anchored in talent, equity and sustainability.

While he was not selected for the final round, LaVerdiere knows full well his nomination is an achievement he will carry with him for the rest of his career.

“Almost 20 years of professional cooking is now justified,” he said with pride Thursday, as he and his team “prepped” for dinner. “It’s all that effort to becoming a better chef, working on my trade every day, reading as much as I can, educate myself — it just justifies all that.”


According to the National Restaurant Association, 63% of adults in this country have worked in the restaurant industry at some point in their lives, with one in three Americans getting their first jobs in one.

Flux Restaurant is celebrating its fifth year in business this week. It’s a huge milestone in the restaurant industry, where between 30% and 60% of restaurants fail in their first year, according to the industry association data.

Flux opened in April 2018.

“We had just started ramping up,” LaVerdiere said. “Business was getting good, we were moving into a profitable establishment, then COVID-19 hit” and, like most restaurants, Flux had to rethink how they do things to survive the pandemic.

“We changed our menu, so it would be geared for takeout,” he said. “I mean we were selling pizzas, pop-up American-Chinese food. Around holidays we sold pies, all the holiday stuff … to just make ends meet basically. Hustle, hustle, hustle.”

Co-owner and executive chef Jason LaVerdiere does prep work Thursday at his Flux Restaurant in Lisbon Falls. He was nominated for a James Beard award this year. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Now 38, the father of four children said it all started at home, cooking with his mom. “I’ve always had a passion for it,” he explained. “We had a big family. I’d help, you know, prepare meals for the family and what not, and then from there I started working at restaurants.”


At 15, it was a pizza shop, then a few years later he got a job at what he called “this nice restaurant in Waterville,” Apollo’s Bistro, which has since closed. LaVerdiere said he learned a lot from the chef he worked under and decided this is what he wanted to do.

Then it was off to college where he studied biology, but after three years, the allure of the kitchen won him over and he jumped ship and went to the culinary arts program at Southern Maine Community College.

LaVerdiere cut his teeth working under different chefs at some 10 restaurants in the Portland area until he landed at Walter’s restaurant in Portland, which closed in 2019 after 30 years in business.

It didn’t take long for the word to get out that LaVerdiere had been nominated for the James Beard award.

“Right after that, we would have 80 or 90 people for Friday and Saturday, fully booked the prior week,” he said. “And for the most part it’s kept up that momentum. We’re having seasonal change, so our weekends are still great, but sometimes Wednesdays and Thursdays are a little quieter than we’d like.”

Whelk ceviche is on the menu at Flux Restaurant in Lisbon Falls. It’s made with local whelks, shiro shoyu lime dressing, Peruvian peppers, red onion, jalapeño, cilantro and chicharrones. Submitted photo

The Winslow native is soft-spoken, but his mind is constantly going. Take the name of the restaurant Flux for example. “It’s like this, the symbol of change, like constant evolution, which goes not only with our cooking style and our experience, and like learning and building, but also our emphasis on using seasonally available ingredients. So our menu is also always changing.”


The emphasis is on fresh, locally sourced ingredients that Maine is blessed with most of the year. From sourcing those fresh ingredients to menu planning, actively preparing for the night’s service and cooking on the line alongside his sous chef Jeb Charette with a full house, LaVerdiere works 60 hours a week just to be able to open the doors four days — Wednesday through Saturday. He also takes photos of the specials and posts them to his social media pages every day.

Business has been good since the James Beard nomination in January — typically a slow time of year for many restaurants. So who goes to Flux?

“Wednesdays and Thursdays is more of a local crowd and then Fridays and Saturdays they come from all over,” he said. “A lot are coming out of Portland, as far north as Skowhegan,” LaVerdiere said. They’re not shy about telling the owners and the staff.

Chef Jason is meticulous about his food. The menu has a base of standards — burgers, chicken sandwich, poutine and what he likes to call all the fan favorites.

“Then we usually have seven or eight different specials on a daily basis, depending on what products we can get, what I’m getting out of the seafood market,” he said.

Rhubarb and custard eclaire is made in house by pastry chef Kristal Robishaw at Flux Restaurant in Lisbon Falls. Submitted photo

“A few things that really inspire me are visiting the ocean, walking and exploring in nature, and visiting local farms,” he said.


Breads and desserts are prepared fresh daily by pastry chef Kristal Robishaw, one of 13 full-time employees at the restaurant. Stocks and demi-glace are all made in house, which anyone who likes to cook can tell you take time.

For LaVerdiere, 2023 is off to a very good start. The James Beard nomination, a busy restaurant with now its first year of profitability after three very difficult years, and who knows what else is to come.

There is little downtime running a restaurant, but Sundays are set aside for his wife and four kids.

“I feel so beat I don’t usually do much and I do feel guilty about that. It’s just a long week,” he said.

“Right now, I’m just riding this wave,” he said with a smile. “I’ve had several people ask me to open a location with them or start other projects but I can’t — this one’s too involved. I can’t step away. I need to put the time into this place. My career’s awesome right now.”

Chef James Laverdiere poses for a photo Thursday in the kitchen of Flux Restaurant in Lisbon Falls. Laverdiere was nominated for a James Beard award this year. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

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