LINCOLNVILLE — He knew. From an early age, Lincolnville’s Frank Giglio knew he would be a chef. What he didn’t know was how far he would go, crisscrossing the county on a professional development odyssey that turned into personal discovery.

Today, he is the classically trained chef at Lincolnville’s Ararat Farms. Giglio’s culinary focus is on sustainable cuisine. Eating responsibly, and well is his main course. However, Frank Giglio has a lot of sides.

While his current gig has him filling plates, his career in kitchen began with him cleaning them.

“My father told me that if I wanted to get a driver’s license, I had to get a job,” Giglio explained. “I had a bunch of friends who were washing dishes at a retirement home, so I went to work there.”

As he worked Giglio’s attention was drawn to the activity of the chef and every aspect of the kitchen.

“I knew they were cooking really basic food,” Giglio said, “but I thought it was something that would be really cool to do.”

He washed dishes for a year before taking a position at the U.S.S. Chowder Pot, a popular seafood restaurant in Giglio’s hometown of Branford, Conn. The Chowder Pot provided much of Giglio’s early kitchen curriculum.

“I started in the breading room frying fish,” he said. “Very quickly I moved all around the kitchen doing morning prep, learning the steamer and pasta stations. It was a fast-paced environment. On a Saturday in the summer we’d do 1,000 (meals) with a four- or five-hour wait.”

At that point Giglio was working 30 hours a week at the Chowder Pot while attending high school. To augment his kitchen skills, he took a part-time job in another restaurant where he learned sauté skills. As college approached, he chose to attend the New England Culinary School in Montpelier, Vermont. Accepted at the institute prior to the start of his senior year in high school, Giglio focused on his budding career.

“I knew I was going to NECS, so I took two foods classes my senior year,” he said. “It was what I knew best, so I figured I’d ride it out.”

Culinary school provided a variety of hands-on experiences in food identification, preparation, and storage. NECS culinary students were also tasked with providing cafeteria meals for fellow students throughout the day.

“It was so much of what I had not known before,” Giglio said. “Now I was fully immersed in all these other aspects of running a kitchen.”

Giglio spent the summer in Portland, Oregon, in a hotel kitchen apprenticeship  before returning for his final year at the institute where he learned about more refined dining and how to cut meat. This latter skill nearly guided him down another path.

“I thought I would be a butcher,” Giglio said. “It interested me, but the thought of working in a supermarket, that wasn’t something I was interested in.”

Instead he went to a summer apprenticeship in Boston at Olives, a high-end restaurant that has since closed, where he was challenged, and inspired, by the daily workload. At the same time the Food Network was turning chefs into superstars.

“That was when the culinary scene really began to take off,” Giglio said. “That was when I really knew I wanted to be a restaurant chef.”

The summer in Boston also awakened Giglio’s spirit of adventure. He began buying gear, hiking, backpacking, fishing and reading about the outdoor lifestyle. After reading “Into the Wild,” he decided to combine the two passions and went to work as a chef in a fishing lodge in Alaska. With nearly all of his professional work seasonal in nature, he took jobs in Connecticut and Telluride, Colorado. At this point his cooking began to be a means to an end.

“In that period of time I was working to support all the things I wanted to do outdoors,” he said. “I was mountain biking, rock climbing, and cooking supported me being outdoors.”

At the same time Giglio began exploring a healthier lifestyle and took a position in a Food Works café that served only vegetarian meals. Accustomed to putting meat on a plate, Giglio began reading everything he could find about vegetarian cooking.

“I went through the store library,” he said, “and I studied about veganism and the vegetarian lifestyle. I kept experimenting with a lot of different eating principles.”

In 2006 Giglio attended Expo West, a convention for co-op vendors in the whole foods industry. While there he read a book on raw foods consumption and veganism.  The book prompted him to become a vegan. Over the next few years he apprenticed, and then instructed, at a vegan restaurant in Arizona, all the while running road races.

Giglio married in 2009 and moved to an off-grid home in Thorndike a year later. There, he began considering the idea of sustainable cuisine.

“It was a dream home,” said Giglio. “It had a spring-fed pond and lots of fruit and nut trees. I began considering where my food was coming from and supporting local farms. I also began foraging and the pursuit of wild food. I was fully devoted to knowing where my food came from.”

Over the next 10 years Giglio worked a succession of cooking gigs including pop-up dinner, wrote several cookbooks and taught classes. At the same time their home, now named 3 Lily Farm, was doing business in an online storefront. Giglio taught cooking classes in their kitchen for participants who camped outside the home.

While he enjoyed teaching people how to cook, Giglio missed cooking for people. The online storefront experience was also wearing on him as he raised two young boys, Sunny and Wilder.

In 2019 he took a job at Ararat Farms in Lincolnville and, along with a colleague, approached the owner to prepare food using resources available on the farm and from his foraging journeys. Giglio would prepare meals and take them to the Ararat Farmstand, while taking prepared meals to Belfast on Saturdays to sell in a booth at the United Farmers Market of Maine.

His prepared meals are wildly popular, selling out quickly in a booth that has grown in size over the past year.

His plans for the future involve several ingredients.

“I’d like to be like a guide and take people out into the field hunting, fishing or foraging,” Giglio said, “then take them back to a place and teach them how to cook that food.”

For now he is the sought-after chef whose meals are available at the Farmer’s Market or Ararat Farms.

“He’s an amazingly talented chef and human being,” said United Farmers Market of Maine Director Paul Naron. “We’re incredibly fortunate to have him.”