The James Beard Foundation announced its list of semifinalists for the awards known as the “Oscars of the food world” on Wednesday, and 12 Maine chefs and restaurants found themselves on the list. For the first time, a majority of those semifinalists are from outside of Portland.
Among the first-time nominees were Devin Finigan, chef of Aragosta at Goose Cove, who last year moved her five-year-old downtown Stonington restaurant to Goose Cove in Deer Isle, located on the western side of the island. Finigan was nominated for Best Chef Northeast, alongside six other Maine chefs.
Finigan’s nomination is the first James Beard recognition for a Hancock County chef since the late Richard Hanson was nominated for Best Chef Northeast in 2008 and 2009 for his work at his Ellsworth restaurant, Cleonice Mediterranean Bistro.
Also new on the list is Briana Holt, who was nominated for Outstanding Baker for her work at Tandem Coffee + Bakery in Portland, and Novare Res Bier Cafe in Portland, which was nominated for Outstanding Bar Program. Curiously, no Maine breweries were nominated for Outstanding Beer, Wine or Spirits Producer, despite Rob Tod of Allagash Brewing in Portland winning in that category just last year.
The other eight semifinalists have all received nominations for James Beard Awards before, including Erin French of The Lost Kitchen in Freedom, who received her first nomination for Best Chef Northeast in 2016. Melissa Kelly of Primo in Rockland has won Best Chef Northeast twice, in 1999 and 2013, and Fore Street in Portland has received a previous nomination for Outstanding Restaurant, a national-level award.
The Beard awards, known in the restaurant industry as the “Oscars of the food world,” honor chefs, restaurants, bakeries and breweries across the U.S. There are national and regional awards. Semifinalists are announced in late February, and finalists for each category are announced in late March. Winners are revealed in a ceremony held in New York City in May.
The full list of Maine semifinalists is listed below.
Briana Holt, Tandem Coffee + Bakery, Portland
Outstanding Bar Program
Novare Res Bier Cafe, Portland
Melissa Kelly, Primo, Rockland
Fore Street, Portland
Best Chef Northeast
Vien Dobui, Cong Tu Bot, Portland
Devin Finigan, Aragosta at Goose Cove, Deer Isle
Erin French, The Lost Kitchen, Freedom
Ben Jackson, Drifters Wife, Portland
Greg Mitchell and Chad Conley, Palace Diner, Biddeford
Krista Kern Desjarlais, The Purple House, North Yarmouth
Ravin Nakjaroen, Long Grain, Camden