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June 28, 2011 Portlandbiz

Architect's design for Grace wins award

Dean Bingham, the Portland architect and chocolatier who designed Grace restaurant, a former brick-and-brownstone Gothic Revival church turned fashionable eatery on Chestnut Street, has won a national award for the restaurant's design.

Bingham, who also makes and sells chocolate truffles and caramels from his Dean's Sweets store at 82 Middle St., beat out six other nominated restaurant architects to win the 2011 Restaurant Design Award in the people's choice category, an annual Los Angeles American Institute of Architects competition.

During the $2 million renovation of the 154-year-old church in 2008, Bingham and restaurant owners Anne and Pete Verrill preserved its historic elements, including the church's vaulted ceilings and 27 stained-glass windows. They hid their updated heating and ventilation systems in the vaults above and gave the church a more contemporary feel. The pulpit is now the hostess stand; the lounge is located on the wrap-around balcony; the ground-floor bar is shaped like the church's trefoil windows. Click here to see photos of the renovation.

His portfolio also includes the Ellsworth Public Library, the Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield and residences. 

Evidently, for Bingham, the distance between designing a soaring church-restaurant and making a little truffle is not far. "As with his training as an architect, Bingham applies his careful sense of design to the art of chocolate making," a press release from Bingham says. "Always attentive to proportion, texture, hue, and above all, taste, Bingham creates a unique piece of art with each truffle."

Bingham has also been recognized for his chocolate concoctions. Last year, he placed first in both the "Best Truffle" and "Best Traditional Chocolate" categories at the 2010 Boston Chocolate Salon, an annual event, and won four silver and bronze medals.

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