Cara Stadler, Executive Chef and Owner
Lio Restaurant is the third full service Restaurant from Cara and Cecile Stadler. The mother-daughter pair first teamed up professionally in 2009, when they formed Gourmet Underground (one of Beijing’s only private fine-dining clubs), and Eighty Ate Hospitality was established in 2018 to encompass all of the projects Cara and Cecile run in the great state of Maine.
While Cara grew up making Shanghainese classics in a kitchen infused with ginger and shaoxing wine, her training is far more global. Beginning her career at 16, she worked at Café Rouge in Berkeley, followed by Striped Bass in Philadelphia, before heading to Paris to hone her fine dining skills. While in France, after staging at Guy Savoy, Cara worked at Gordon Ramsay Au Trianon Palace, his two-Michelin star restaurant in Versailles.
At the same time as she was learning from these modern masters, Cara began noticing what has become her core guiding concept – what she calls “the perfect bite.” Specifically, she became fascinated with how, in a single bite, flavors harmonize in a sequence of moments, supported by the cadence of texture. Since then, Cara is constantly striving to put both new “perfect bites” and some classics on the table.
With the aim of finding more flavors and texture to bring to this concept, Cara headed to Asia in 2008. After working briefly in Singapore at French-Japanese restaurant Saint Pierre and heading up Gourmet Underground in Beijing in 2009, Cara moved to Shanghai and began her long-standing relationship with one of China’s most esteemed restaurateurs, David Laris. Starting out as sous-chef of Laris – at the time, one of Asia’s fine-dining landmarks – Cara later launched David’s private dining restaurant, 12 Chairs, which has been hailed one of Asia’s best restaurants by The Miele Guide.
Cara returned to the U.S. in November 2011, eager to work with her mother to bring to Brunswick her unique twist of contemporary Asian fusion combined with the bounty of local Maine flavors. Tao Yuan Restaurant opened in May of 2012 as Cara and Cecile’s first full service restaurant. Three years later, Bao Bao Dumpling House was born – a fast casual dumpling shop in Portland’s West End. This was followed in 2018 by Lio Restaurant, in downtown Portland, a modern European small plates restaurant with a strong focus on wine. In 2014, Cara was recognized as a Food and Wine Best New Chef. Each year since 2014 she has been nominated for James Beard Rising Star award, a nod to the industries future talent and leaders.
Rachel Reynolds, Co-Chef / Kitchen Composer
Rachel was born in Vermont, raised in Idaho, and lives in Hollis, Maine with her husband and two dogs. Rachel began her culinary journey making Kraft macaroni and cheese for her older sister in their family kitchen in Vermont. Prior to joining the team at Lio, Rachel worked as a sous chef at The Honey Paw here in Portland. Before relocating to Maine, Rachel worked at restaurants in New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts. When she isn’t cooking, Rachel enjoys being outdoors and spending time with her friends and family.
Chelsea Jones, Sous Chef
Chelsea was born in Boynton Beach, Florida. She started cooking at a young age, when she would stand along side her mom and assist her in the kitchen. Chelsea’s mom is also in the food industry and that’s where she found her love for being in the kitchen and cooking. While still in high school she had her first job working in fast food, then after graduating high school she enrolled in culinary school the following year. While in school she moved on to working in seafood restaurants along the Florida beach fronts. After working in Florida for a while she decided she wanted a change, so she came to Portland in the summer of 2017 for a mini vacation and ended up liking Portland and decided to come back 3 months later. She got a job at local Italian restaurant, and soon after met Cara ending up at Tao Yuan, and then the sous chef at Lio. In her free time she likes to relax with friends or try different foods. She likes to travel and learn about new and different things as much as she can.
Kate Hamm, Pastry Chef
Kate started in the restaurant business at the age of 16, bussing tables at a colonial themed restaurant in Central Massachusetts, and shockingly never looked back. She worked in various bakeries, bars, and restaurants in scenic Western Massachusetts before moving to Chicago, where she worked at Michelin starred restaurant Longman and Eagle under executive pastry chef Jeremy Brutzkus. She relocated to Maine in 2015, where she worked as the pastry chef at Tao Yuan for two years. On her days off you can find her swimming in the ocean as frequently as possible, walking her dog in the woods, and enjoying some nice wine.
Morgan LaCroix, Wine Director and FOH Manager
Morgan grew up in the industry, starting at 12 washing dishes and shining shoes at the country club in Southern Vermont, that her father managed. After attending college for a double major in art and art history, she relocated to Park City, Utah for 5 years. Finishing her stint in the west, she moved home to New England, landing in Providence, Rhode Island, as a server and then the Front of House Manager of Gracie’s. During her tenure as manager, the restaurant was awarded their first AAA 4 Diamond award, at that time the first in the city. Upon her departure, she spent time at Persimmon in Bristol (JBF Outstanding Service Nominee) and The Grange. In 2016 she moved home to the Green Mountain State, as the Dining and Beverage Manager of the Inn at Shelburne Farms, a Gilded-Age Mansion on a 1,400-acre working farm on the shores of Lake Champlain. After 2 years in that position, Morgan relocated to Portland to be a part of the opening team for Lio as the Wine Director and Front of House Manager. When she isn’t spending her time studying for her next wine certification, she enjoys getting outside, and hanging with her cat, Nebbiolo.
Liz Smith – Bar Manager
Breakfast and Betty Crocker. That’s how Liz fell in love with this industry. Growing up in North Carolina, her favorite day was always Sunday because that meant Mom made breakfast. When Liz was in the 6th grade, the family moved up north to where her Mom was from in Vestal, New York, after her father passed away. With her mom now working every Sunday, Liz was on her own for breakfast. A few burnt potatoes and sloppy omelettes later, she had Sunday breakfast almost mastered. Liz had also started baking her way through her mom’s only cookbook, The Betty Crocker Cookbook. Each week she baked something new and brought it in to school for her classmates to try. One Sunday, Liz was making breakfast when she realized that nothing made her happier than making food for people. So that’s what she would pursue. After graduating high school in 2011, Liz attended Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island to study baking and pastry arts. With one year left in her four year pastry degree, she decided to declare a second major in beverage management as a way to set her apart from other pastry majors. However, Liz fell in love with wine and spirits and realized she’d rather be studying wine maps than making crème anglaise. Upon graduation in 2015, she pursued a career in the front of house. That summer she worked at Castle Hill in Newport and also worked at a small winery in Little Compton. After a season of making wine, Liz started at Gracie’s, located in the heart of Providence. Working her way from back server to bartender, Gracie’s taught her the true meaning of hospitality. Liz made the decision to move to Portland in 2017. Before working at Lio she was previously working at Central Provisions. When not behind the bar, you can find Liz at her yoga studio, hanging out with her cat Yoda, watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race, or hosting Sunday Supper.