James Beard Award semi-finalists announced; Maine chefs nominated

The James Beard Foundation announced this year’s semi-finalists for the James Beard Awards, the culinary Oscars that narrow down who the best chefs and restaurants in the country are. Every year, more and more Maine chefs and eateries get nominated. Who is in the running this year? Who was snubbed — should Maine beer makers, like Luke Livingston from Baxter Brewing or the folks at Allagash Brewery, have been nominated for Outstanding Wine and Spirit Professional? The Maine nominees are below. The finalists will be announced March 19, and winners will be announced on May 7.

Best New Restaurant: 

Petite Jacqueline, Portland – This new French bistro, owned by the folks behind Five Fifty-Five, has quickly become the talk of the town.

Outstanding Chef:

Melissa Kelly, Primo, Rockland – Kelly (pictured at left) has been nominated so many times, she’s almost like the Meryl Streep of Maine chefs. Arguably the best restaurant in the state.

Outstanding Restaurant:

Fore Street, Portland – Chef Sam Hayward has been nominated before, and won in 2004 for Best Chef Northeast. Could he win again? Fore Street is at the vanguard of Portland dining.

Best Chef Northeast:

Penelle, Megan and Phoebe Chase and Ted LaFage, Chase’s Daily, Belfast – This vegetarian farm-to-table restaurant in Belfast has incredible Friday night dinners, and a brunch to die for. They’ve also been nominated before – is this their year?

Krista Kern Desjarlais, Bresca, Portland – Italian food, made transcendent, in an intimate, romantic setting.

Brian Hill, Francine Bistro, Camden — Hill has been nominated before, for his work at the local food worshiping Francine and for his Rockport restaurant, the more casual Shepard’s Pie.

Demos Regas, Emilitsa, Portland — Regas’ take on classic Greek food has been a crowd-pleaser since they opened in 2010; he’s been nominated before.

Danai Sriprasert and Nattasak Wongsaichua, Boda, Portland – Thai food as tapas, along with some creative entrees and fabulous cocktails. This is a first-time nomination for Sripraser and Wongshaichua, who have created a popular restaurant catering to hip Portland eaters.

Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, a University of Maine graduate, a proud Bangorian and an arts and lifestyle writer for the Bangor Daily News, where she's worked since 2004. She reports on everything from local bands to local food, from media and the Internet to theater and dance. In her quest for stories, she's seen countless concerts and plays, been lobster fishing, interviewed celebrities, taken belly dancing classes, hung out with water buffalo and played in a ukulele orchestra, to name just a few. She's interested in everything -- especially if it happens in Maine. She welcomes any and all feedback or suggestions for stories.