Maine foodies are proud of the state's vibrant, creative food scene, which has gained national attention for its world-class chefs. Portland—which Bon Appetit magazine named "America's Foodiest Small Town" and The Food Network named as one of its top five "Most Delicious Destinations"—has a well-known restaurant scene and is home to four of the state's five winners of the coveted James Beard Award. But you can also taste award-winning dishes at heralded restaurants across the state.
Maine's roster of celebrated chefs includes:
Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley in Portland
In 2013, Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley were named Food & Wine's best up-and-coming chefs of New England for their Portland restaurant Eventide Oyster Co. Along with business partner Arlin Smith, Taylor and Wiley also own two other Portland restaurants - the long-popular Hugo's and The Honey Paw, their newest creation. The New York Times described the latter as "the latest relatably cool restaurant from one of Portland’s most winning chef-restaurateur teams."
Rob Evans, of Duckfat, in Portland
Rob Evans won the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Northeast in 2009, on his second nomination. In 2004, Food & Wine magazine named Evans one of the "Best New Chefs in the U.S." Originally trained as an electrician, Evans quit that field and went to work for such prestigious restaurants as The French Laundry and The Inn at Little Washington before opening Hugo's in Portland in 2000. He left Hugo's to concentrate on Duckfat, a small sandwich shop that has it all: classic Belgian fries made with local Maine potatoes fried in duck fat, panini, soups, salads, charcuterie, sodas and milkshakes all made in house.
Sam Hayward, of Fore Street Restaurant in Portland
Sam Hayward, who won the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Northeast in 2004, had always cooked as a hobby. When a friend invited him to run the kitchen at an oceanographic lab on one of the Isles of Shoals in 1974, he “fell in love with the Gulf of Maine—not just the breathtaking seascape but the whole biological system.” In 1999, he opened Fore Street, which was #26 on Gourmet magazine's 2006 list of "America's Top 50 Best Restaurants." Hayward works hard to support Maine producers as exclusively as he can. He says he’s often skeptical about new cooking innovations—"but I’m never skeptical about a beautiful artisanal cheese or a perfect head of Maine lettuce.”
Melissa Kelly, of Primo in Rockland
Melissa Kelly was raised on Long Island in a family of Italian cooks, including her grandfather, gourmand and butcher Primo Mangani. After working at several restaurants, including Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse and The Old Chatham Sheepherding Company—where she won the James Beard Award in 1999—she opened Primo with partner and pastry chef Price Kushner. She says she was drawn to Maine by “its old-world charm and the drastic change of seasons that brings a changing bounty to the table.”
Steve Corry, of 555 Congress Street in Portland
Steve Corry—whom Food & Wine magazine named one of the “Best New Chefs in the U.S.” in 2007—began his professional life as a beer maker and came to Portland with plans to open a brewpub nearby. But a stint at the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont led Corry and his wife, Michelle, to open 555 Congress Street in 2003. In 2012, the Maine Restaurant Association named Corry "Chef of the Year." When the Corrys first came to Maine, they thought they detected early signs “of something that would blossom into a major culinary scene," Steve Corry says. "But what’s happened is almost unbelievable—not just at restaurants, but with the farmers and the farmers’ markets, the cheese makers, so many more. The whole thing is growing into something better than you’d find even in Boston. What’s happening in Maine is not just a trend or a fad. It’s a movement with deep roots. It’s staggering, really.”