The 25th annual James Beard Foundation Award nominees were announced Tuesday morning on Twitter. Portland came up big. Four of the 10 Maine semifinalists advanced to the next round in the Oscars of the food world. All have restaurants in Portland.
Central Provisions on Fore Street was nominated for best new restaurant in the nation.
The year-old newcomer has been wowing diners with fresh fish and a modern approach to small plates since last February.
“Being nominated for a James Beard Award is the highest accolade we could get in our profession,” Paige Gould, who runs Central Provisions with her chef husband Chris Gould, a Bethel native, said. “I am fairly overwhelmed.”
The pair have ascended fast in food city. The 31-year-olds met at Clio in Boston, where they trained under top chef Ken Oringer. Central Provisions, which has a waitlist even during the lean season, vies for top spot in the country among establishments in much larger cities, such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Minneapolis.
The award is bestowed upon a restaurant that opened in 2014, which “displays excellence in food, beverage, and service and is likely to have a significant impact on the industry in years to come.”
To Paige Gould, “part of a good restaurant is the owner’s presence. Me and my husband try our best to be present all the time. He didn’t take any days off until the fall,” she said, adding that the restaurant’s “fantastic management crew” is the key to their rapid rise.
In the coveted Best Chef Northeast, Masa Miyake of Miyake and Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley of Eventide Oyster Co. are nominated. These Portland hotspots often are mentioned in national glossies for best oysters, lobster rolls and hip ambiance. Miyake’s succulent sushi was recognized as one of the best in the country by Huffington Post in January.
Cara Stadler received the rising chef of the year nod for Tao Yuan in Brunswick. The 27-year-old, whose Bao Bao Dumpling House opened in Portland in October, was a semifinalist in this category last year. This year she advanced a tier. “I am really excited more than anything,” Stadler said. “Maine has been rocking it lately.”
Stadler, named one of the best new chefs in the U.S. by Food and Wine magazine last spring, stays humble. “There are four local finalists from Maine, incredibly talented people. It’s an honor to be among them.”
The reputation that Maine always lands last on lists has shifted. These culinary stars have stemmed the tide. And food lovers across the nation, who fuel the Beard Awards, have taken note.
“In order to vote, you have to eat at our restaurant, and we are in Mane,” Paige Gould said. “The statistics are against us.”
Winners will be announced May 4 at a ceremony in Chicago.