The James Beard Foundation announced Tuesday afternoon it’s semifinalist nominees for its annual awards, a prestigious set of prizes for restaurants, restaurateurs, chefs, bartenders, sommeliers and food journalists. Four Maine chefs and restaurants are among the preliminary list; the finalists will be announced on March 18, and a gala ceremony to announce the winner is set for May 6 in New York City.
Portland’s Fore Street, a multiple nominee and one-time winner (2004) of Best Chef Northeast for chef Sam Hayward, was named one of the Outstanding Restaurants in the country. In the Best Chef Northeast category, three Maine chefs were nominated: Krista Kern Desjarlais of Portland’s Bresca, Brian Hill of Francine Bistro in Camden and Melissa Kelly of Primo in Rockland. Both Hill and Desjarlais have been nominated before; Kelly won Best Chef Northeast in 1999.
In previous years, many more Maine nominees were named; last year, eight restaurants and chefs in total were named semifinalists, and in 2011, there were nine in total.