Meet Your Neighbor: Rick Barbata, Personal Chef With Vision

By Carol McCracken

Rick understands how families have to stretch their food budgets because of rising food prices and economic uncertainity. So, the focus in his ’cook on your range’ service has become more family-friendly than ever. It’s intended to make families food budgets last longer than ever while catering to their favorite foods and special diets.

MHN readers may well remember Rick’s Restaurant which was at the corner of Congress Street and St. Lawrence Street. It’s remembered by many in the area because it was awarded 5 stars by the Portland Phoenix. It was also the first restaurant at the top of the Hill on Congress Street and led the way for the high quality restaurants that are now established in the same area. The out-going Rick and his two business partners ran this highly successful restaurant for one year – from 2001 to 2002. However, the business was dissolved in 2002, paving the way for the others that have followed in the footsteps of Rick’s innovativeness and vision. Currently, there are three destination restaurants in the area where Rick’s once was the only restaurant.

In this new focus, Rick offers a special plan for families. His large menu of 1,000 items allows customers to pick from a variety of foods; special diet foods and certain foods that appeal to children. Rick buys the ingredients, cooks in your kitchen and cleans-up following the cooking. Having cooked for large groups in the past with varying tastes and special diets, Rick likes the challenge of pleasing different palates. Rick prepares meals for families that can be frozen until needed – for example when unexpected guests arrive on your doorsep. Testifying to his excellent skills in all categories is his girlfriend Tiffany Bauer who joined us at a table in the – where else – Hilltop Coffee Shop on Congress Street. 

Rick, 43 years old, is from California. He learned most of his cooking skills from traveling abroad – in Japan, Italy and France. Most instructive to him was the time he spent in Italy – learning about using fresh and vibrant produce. Rick had the fun of working in Los Angeles where he cooked for movie stars in 15 different movies. They included the movies Titanic, My Best Friend’s Wedding, the Cable Guy and a bunch more. He enjoys seeing some of the actors he served on movie sets on today’s movie screens. Rick remembered their favorite sandwichs or snacks were even now as the three of us sat at Table # 1 at the Hilltop!

Eventually, what had been planned as a serious interview about Rick’s shifting emphasis on his food service, turned into a pleasant visit as easy as though we were three long-time friends. “Tiff” as Rick calls her is an interesting business woman in her own right – but that’s another neat story for another day. Rick says he’s already lived a chef’s dream when cooking at his namesake on the Hill: standing in the kitchen looking at all the diners enjoying his creations and enjoying themselves – it just doesn’t get any better than that. Except maybe cooking for his guests in their own homes.

Rick’s web page is undergoing an overhaul at this time….stay tuned.