Followers of the cookbook author’s YouTube channel will recognize this place from the background of his videos.
Photograph by Benjamin Williamson
Registered Maine Guide; Chinese & American Friendship Association advisor; Maine College Circle director
FAVORITE PLACES TO TEACH
The list includes Bath kitchen store Now You’re Cooking and Georgetown’s Gray Havens Inn, a seaside B&B where he co-leads learning retreats. “When I think of Maine in the summertime, I think of being on that veranda.”
Cookbook author, educator, and renaissance man Chris Toy is what you’d call an early adopter — which is ironic, in a sense. His parents adopted him from Hong Kong in the early ’50s, just after the U.S. inked a treaty with Great Britain allowing Americans to adopt from the then–British colony; Toy was the ﬁrst orphan airlifted under the agreement. He grew up outside Boston, went to college at Bowdoin, then got his master’s in teaching from Brown University before taking his ﬁrst classroom job, in Gorham. Teaching morphed into admin, and in 1992, Toy became principal at Freeport Middle School.
Ten years later, the state launched the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, championed by then-governor Angus King, to give every 7th- through 12th-grader a laptop. Principal Toy saw how laptops boosted student engagement and became a cheerleader. NPR and the New York Times came to Freeport to gauge the program’s impact, as did educators and leaders considering such programs elsewhere. In 2005, Toy left education to become a globe-trotting consultant, helping nascent student-tech programs get oﬀ the ground.
The career change allowed him more time to indulge his passion for cooking — and speciﬁcally, for teaching cooking classes. “Then, in 2006, there was this little startup called YouTube,” Toy recalls. “I wondered if I could make a video of something I’d cooked up. I wasn’t worried about anybody watching it — there was no such thing as going viral at the time.”
The video he posted — a shaky-cam aﬀair titled “Easy instant ramen egg drop soup” — has today garnered 1.3 million views, and the couple hundred instructionals he’s posted since have earned him a respectable audience on the platform, which in turn recently attracted a publisher. In 2020, Chris Toy put out his Easy Chinese Cookbook, which sold briskly, and he has somehow cranked out four follow-ups since, focused on stir-fry and ramen. A new one drops in March.
A few of Toy’s videos show the Bath resident grilling on his back deck overlooking Butler Cove, on Merrymeeting Bay, where he was also an early adopter. “As an educator, I was able to aﬀord waterfront 30 years ago because Merrymeeting Bay was a sewer,” he says. But he knew federal regulations would lead to cleanups, as indeed they have, and now, Toy says, “I look right oﬀ the deck at Brick Island and Butler Head and think that I am very fortunate to live where I live.”
Headshot by Kerry Michaels / Flying Point Photography