Melissa Kelly of Rockland farm-to-table restaurant Primo tonight won the Best Chef Northeast honor at the James Beard Awards, held in New York City. It is Kelly’s second win overall in the category, and the first time a chef has won a regional award twice. Kelly won previously when she was chef at the Old Chatham Sheepherding Co. in New York.
Kelly was the only nominee from Maine this year; other Maine James Beard Award-winning chefs include Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier of Arrows in Ogunquit, Rob Evans of Hugo’s and Sam Hayward of Fore Street, both in Portland.
Primo opened 14 years ago in an old Victorian mansion on South Main Street in Rockland, and has since become one of the vanguard farm-to-table restaurants in the nation. Kelly’s Italian-inspired cuisine utilizes ingredients grown right in town, on the restaurant’s 4-acre property – from fresh herbs and produce to chicken, ducks and their heritage pigs, which are butchered on site. She has been nominated for Best Chef Northeast for Primo multiple times. The restaurant opens for the season next Tuesday, May 14.
The other finalists in the Best Chef category were: Jamie Bissonnette of Coppa in Boston, Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery and Cafe in Boston, Gerry Hayden of the North Fork Table & Inn in Southold, N.Y., and Barry Maiden of Hungry Mother in Cambridge.