12 Maine chefs and restaurants named semi-finalists for 2017 James Beard Awards

Ravin Nakjaroen (left) and his wife, Paula Palakawong, co-owners of Long Grain in Camden.

Ravin Nakjaroen (left) and his wife, Paula Palakawong, co-owners of Long Grain in Camden.

This year’s semi-finalists for the 2017 James Beard Awards were announced Wednesday morning, and a record 12 Maine chefs and restaurants were on the list. Eight of those chefs and restaurants are up for national-level awards, including a first-time Best Restaurant nomination for Chase’s Daily, the longtime farm to table, vegetarian restaurant in Belfast.

Chase’s Daily has been at the forefront of Maine’s farm to table dining scene ever since the Chase family opened the restaurant, bakery and market in downtown Belfast in 2000. The restaurant has been nominated several other times in other categories, but never for Best Restaurant, a nationwide category.

A newcomer to the list is the Drifter’s Wife, a tiny wine bar and local food eatery opened on Washington Avenue in Portland in late 2015 by husband and wife duo Peter and Orenda Hale. The eatery is all about the wine, featuring natural, organic varieties carefully selected by the couple and paired with local, seafood-centric small plates.

Ilma Lopez, pastry chef at Piccolo in Portland, was also nominated for the first time this year for Pastry Chef of the Year. A native of Venezuala, she and her husband Damian Sansonetti, co-own Piccolo, located on Middle Street in Portland, with food inspired by the cuisine of Southern and Central Italy.

The James Beard Awards are the most prestigious American award for culinary excellence. Several Mainers have won awards before, including Melissa Kelly of Primo in Rockland and Sam Hayward of Fore Street in Portland. Brian Hill, owner of Francine Bistro in Camden, has been nominated eight times, including this year.

Here’s the full list of Maine semi-finalists. The finalists will be announced March 15, and winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in New York on April 25.

Best New Restaurant
Drifter’s Wife, Portland

Outstanding Baker
Alison Pray, Standard Baking Company, Portland

Outstanding Bar Program
Portland Hunt + Alpine Club, Portland

Outstanding Pastry Chef
Ilma Lopez, Piccolo, Portland

Outstanding Restaurant
Chase’s Daily, Belfast
Fore Street, Portland

Outstanding Wine, Spirits or Beer Professional
Rob Tod, Allagash Brewing Company, Portland

Rising Star Chef of the Year
Cara Stadler, Tao Yuan, Brunswick

Best Chef Northeast
Brian Hill, Francine Bistro, Camden
Ravin Nakjaroen, Long Grain, Camden
Keiko Suzuki Steinberger, Suzuki Sushi Bar, Rockland
Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley, Eventide Oyster Company, Portland

A full list of all 2017 semi-finalists can be found here.

Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, UMaine graduate, proud Bangorian and a writer for the Bangor Daily News, where she's worked since 2004. She reports on everything from local bands to local food to all the cool things going on in the Greater Bangor area. In her quest for stories, she's seen countless concerts and plays, been lobster fishing, interviewed celebrities, hung out with water buffalo and played in a ukulele orchestra. She's interested in everything that happens in Maine.