When Chef Justin Shoults made the decision to depart Nantucket’s famous Oran Mor Bistro for Newburyport, the restaurant for which he was being hired did not exist. His instincts were to trade the sure bet of a popular coastal restaurant at which he was well-established, for the adventure of being in on the ground floor for Caswell Restaurant Group’s highly anticipated follow-up restaurant, BRINE. Happily for all concerned, he has never looked back.
As BRINE’s Executive Chef, the affable and innovative Chef Shoults challenges his kitchen team by example to best themselves daily with creatively presented fish delicacies, sophisticated chowders, sumptuous dessert finales and hearty meats crowned with beautiful local harvests and brined components. His goal: to make you hungry at first glance. His colorful Instagram posts chronicle his immaculate attention to presentation and well-considered flavor pairings: a Pork Loin and Braised Shank Duo with Celeriac, Cabbage and Apple should be a New England calling card. Or his playful twist on the traditional Italian Wedding Soup – a Seared Tuna Loin and Tuna Polpetti in a Foraged Mushroom Consommé – that marries tradition and contemporary cuisine in one bowl.
Chef Shoults’ culinary sensibility of ‘less is more’ mirrors his cooking: unpretentious, curious, authentic and fun. Watching him meticulously shuck oysters shows both his pride and caring, favoring skill over speed to delicately present your oyster without overexertion to the meat. Beyond to caviars and the popular daily ‘sausage de la casa,’ the vast crudo repertoire under his guidance has become a BRINE signature. He leads his team by being part of his team. An imaginative Halibut Truffle Crudo with Celery and Gooseberry shows how he uses collaboration to push BRINE’s menu creativity, quickly offering credit to Chef Michael Daly’s aesthetic eye for the berry that added both vivid color and a hint of tartness as a perfect balance to the pristine texture of the Atlantic fish. BRINE may have inspired a crudo revolution.
Moving throughout BRINE, the understated Chef Shoults in his faded Red Sox cap instead of a toque, is unaffected by media attention or the routine of famous diners. His cap is likely the only personal deviation from the disciplined kitchen he emulates from his mentor, Certified Master Chef Harmut Handke. This rare apprenticeship proved formative for Culinary Institute of America grad from the Buckeye State, who every day strives for Chef Handke’s marker of successful restaurant: consistency. Now two restaurants beyond his tenures at Oran Mor and The Ritz Carlton Beach Resort in Naples, FL before that, Chef Shoults knows his advancement from student to mentor. He hopes that when their cooks ever leave for new adventures as he did, that the BRINE name conveys a reputation for both friendliness and quality.