Everything about Julie Cutting is bold, from her flowing blonde hair and flashing megawatt smile to her tangential opinions on food to the flavors at Cure, her new American comfort-food style bistro in downtown Portsmouth in the space formerly occupied by Four Restaurant. Fans of the Food Network show Cutthroat Kitchen may recognize Cutting as a contestant on episode four of the first season, but locals are beginning to recognize her as the bubbly, smiling face behind the stove at this sunny neighborhood spot. Cutting grew up in South Berwick, Maine, and had dreamed of opening her own restaurant since 2004, while attending the Atlantic Culinary Academy in Dover. Over the past decade, she has worked her way down the coast, including The Front Room in Portland, Brazo in Portsmouth, and Seaport Fish in Kittery. Despite the crazy hours and stress of being a business owner, she couldn’t be happier.
Why did you become a chef?
Growing up, my parents both worked full time and we had a nanny that didn’t know how to cook. I was a heavy kid, raised on hot dogs and macaroni and cheese. When I went to culinary school, I was terrified that I didn’t know what I was getting myself into—I only had the tidbits of knowledge I’d learned from canning with my grandmother on her farm in Pittsfield, New Hampshire. The lack of experience actually made me hungrier to learn how to cook fresh, healthy food. That’s what I want to bring to people—tasty food that satisfies.
Why were you inspired to do American comfort food?
This is kind of an homage to Harding Lee Smith, owner of The Front Room. It was my favorite restaurant to work at and he was my favorite chef to work for. It’s really the type of food I love to eat, and no one else in the city is really doing it.
What’s your philosophy now that you’re running the show?
I’ve taken the things I’ve learned to do the wrong way and the right way and meshed them into a great harmony that works for our community and our staff. Everything, from the colors to the artwork to the sign, has been an original thought based on what I’ve learned over the past 10 years. I was raised in a loving and caring environment where I learned to treat other people the way I wanted to be treated, so everybody gets a smile when they walk in the door. I want to be good to my staff and to my customers, creating American comfort food at decent price points that the neighborhood will frequent for lunch and dinner.
How will your menu change?
It’s going to get lighter and fresher when the weather gets warmer. Over time, I want to step it up but still keep the food
approachable and tasty; maybe add a stuffed quail dish, get some Berkshire pork, and get a half pig and utilize the whole thing, making pancetta and serrano out of the leg. As we grow and as our customers trust us more, I can really start playing. What you can expect from me is fresh food that’s consistent, that will get more exciting as we go, and menus that will change frequently.
What did you take away from your experience on Cutthroat Kitchen?
I learned that if I could do that show, then I shouldn’t be terrified of anything else, like opening my own restaurant. If I can do that, I can do anything.
189 State Street, Portsmouth, N.H.