With the restaurants Hugo’s, Eventide and Honey Paw, the partners of Big Tree Hospitality have achieved remarkable success. This week we speak with Arlin Smith, Mike Wiley and Andrew Taylor about their own stories, winning the 2017 James Beard Award, and what life is like as they expand their business outside of Portland.
Growing up scavenging for wild oysters and mussels while vacationing on Cape Cod, Newton, Massachusetts, native Andrew Taylor had a passion for seafood and local ingredients at a young age. After graduating Bates College with a degree in economics, Andrew pondered law school but ultimately opted to pursue a culinary career. He sharpened his skills while working under renowned chefs Thierry Rautureau at Rover’s in Seattle and Ken Oringer at Clio in Boston. Andrew moved to Portland in 2009 and accepted a position at Hugo’s, a local mainstay known for elevated New England fare using the best of seasonal ingredients. Three years later, Andrew joined forces with colleagues Mike Wiley and Arlin Smith to purchase the restaurant from their mentor, then-owner Rob Evans, and founded Big Tree Hospitality. Since then, Big Tree Hospitality has opened Eventide Oyster Co. and the Honey Paw, with the purpose of delivering modern, innovative, and influential dining experiences. In 2017, Andrew and Mike won James Beard’s “Best Chef: Northeast” award. They were previously nominated in the same category in both 2014 and 2015. Today, Andrew guides the evolution of all of Big Tree Hospitality’s properties, in terms of culinary direction and overall growth of the brand.
Though he holds a bachelor’s degree in literature and creative writing from Colby College and a master’s of rhetoric from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Mike Wiley always felt called to the kitchen. His food and hospitality education began early: as a child, he frequently cooked alongside his mother and later took a summer job as a busboy. When Mike moved west to Colorado, he spent several formative years working in various restaurants to support his ski and study habits. Ultimately, he decided to pursue a career in the culinary field and moved back east in 2010 to join the team at Hugo’s, an enduring Portland standby that had evolved into a beacon of New England cuisine under the direction of chef/owner Rob Evans. After two years working under the award-winning Evans, Mike and his then colleagues, Andrew Taylor and Arlin Smith, purchased Hugo’s and established Big Tree Hospitality. The group has since opened two more restaurants, Eventide Oyster Co. and The Honey Paw, to regional and national acclaim. In 2017, Andrew and Mike won James Beard’s “Best Chef: Northeast” award. They were previously nominated in the same category in both 2014 and 2015. These days, Mike has a hand in the culinary direction of all of Big Tree Hospitality’s properties, as well as the group’s continued evolution and growth.
The only member of Big Tree Hospitality to hold a culinary degree, owner and general manager Arlin Smith graduated the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park in 2005. During and after his time at the CIA, Arlin furthered his hospitality career by taking front-of-house management positions at esteemed Hudson Valley restaurants. While visiting Portland in 2009, Arlin dined at Hugo’s, a leader in New England fine dining, and fortuitously met chef/owner Rob Evans. Immediately taken by the excitement and energy that Evans exuded, Arlin decided to move east to join the team as general manager. After three years working side-by-side with his mentor, he purchased Hugo’s with his colleagues, Mike Wiley and Andrew Taylor and founded Big Tree Hospitality. The team has since built two more restaurants in Portland: Eventide Oyster Co. and the Honey Paw. Arlin drives the Big Tree brand forward by directing FOH management across existing BTH restaurants, and advising on concept, build out, and design of forthcoming properties.