A1 Diner: Real Food, Recipes, and Recollections by Sarah Rolph


Past events:

Sarah’s book was celebrated with a special event at the Culinary Archives and Museum at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. Read about the event.

Sarah discussed her book at Copia in 2006. Read about the event.

Sarah’s book was launched in grand style at the beautiful Gardiner Public Library on August 15, 2006. Read about the event.

Mike Giberson and Maurice Wakefield

Two diner cooks. At left is Mike Giberson, chef and co-owner of A1 Diner from 1988 to the present. At right is Maurice Wakefield, who owned the same diner (then called Wakefield’s) from 1952 to 1979. Sarah and Mike interviewed Mr. Wakefield in 2005, and the diner stories he shared are an important part of the book. He died in March, 2007, at the age of 91.

Sarah Rolph and Mike Giberson

Sarah Rolph and Mike Giberson.

Includes 33 recipes!
Click here for recipe index

Born as Heald’s, this diner then served Gardiner for three decades as Wakefield’s and another near-decade as Giberson’s Diner. Gibey’s son Mike is the co-owner and chef now, with his partner Neil, and their A1 Diner is closing in on two decades now.

Each era has had its own opportunities and challenges. In 1946, the diner served good food fast, 24 hours a day, to the factory workers of Gardiner. By the 1950s, there were fewer factory workers, but the diner was also a hangout for high school kids. In the 1970s, Gardiner was down to its lowest ebb, with little industry to support the town. Even the kids stopped coming in, now that there was a McDonald’s in town.

But the diner survived. Just when it was in danger of fading away, in the 1980s, Mike Giberson and Neil Andersen decided to take the diner in a new direction. A lot of what they did seems obvious now—the move to non-smoking (well before it was the law), the move to fresh, seasonal foods, from local producers as much as possible, and the updating of the menu to include fine-food specials. But none of this was obvious at the time. Giberson and Andersen had great strength of vision, and a great deal of patience as they slowly worked to make their dream come true.

Praise for A1 Diner: Real Food, Recipes,
and Recollections

“This is a book about America – how we have changed and how we are the same. The stories of the people who have kept this diner alive and made it flourish are as delicious and nourishing as the food. This is a singular and significant book that warms my heart and gives me faith in small town America.”
Jacquelyn Buchanan
Director of Culinary Development
Laura Chenelís Chevre
“Much more than a cookbook, A1 Diner: Real Food, Recipes, and Recollections by Sarah Rolph weaves together the history of Gardiner’s famous Worcester diner, tales of the lives of its owners and employees, and a collection of recipes from its most recent incarnation as an eclectic spot beloved by foodies near and far.”
Down East Magazine
November 2006
“Sarah Rolph’s tribute to a Gardiner, Maine landmark, A1 Diner: Real Food, Recipes, and Recollections (Tilbury House), is a keeper of the first order. It makes you at one and the same time hungry, chuckly, and nostalgic. From its tracing of the roots of the special place this eating spot holds for its local (and far–flung) clientele to the evocative recipes (just try the crab cakes… or the varieties of pie recipes… or the bouillabaisse with rouille – I know, in Maine? that’s right, in Gardiner, Maine) you will be hooked. The owners have – to put it mildly – varied as much as the state has; however, the staff has been true blue, mostly local and have wondrous stories of their own (well told, I might add)…”
Marilis Hornidge
The Courier-Gazette, Waldoboro, Maine
A1 Diner: Real Food, Recipes, & Recollections isn’t just a straightforward cookbook; it gathers memories of the people who owned and worked for the A1 Diner, from which these time–tested favorite tastes have been gathered. Numerous anecdotes and recollections pepper such long–beloved A1 Diner recipes as Individual Cheese Souffles, Gingerbread with Lemon Sauce, Mike’s Shrimp Scampi, Lime Avocado Salad with Pistachios, and a great deal more. A handful of black–and–white photographs illustrate this excellent cookbook of authentic diner delicacies.”
“This is an A1 book! It captures the food, the people, the history, and what has made this Worcester streamliner click for sixty years. Read this for the anecdotes, but keep it for the recipes.”
Richard Gutman
Author of American Diner Then and Now
Curator, Culinary Archives & Museum, Johnson & Wales University
“No journey through Central Maine would be quite right without a stop at A1 Diner. At the A1, Mike and Neil have not only preserved the traditions of the Great American Diner—they have subtly moved it forward with new twists on old favorites. A1 Diner: Real Food, Recipes, and Recollections gives us great, simple recipes as well as stories of the traditions that have made the diner part of what is quintessential Maine.”
Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier
Chef-owners, Arrows Restaurant, Oqunquit, Maine
Nominated by the James Beard Foundation as Best Chefs of the Northeast, March 2006