The James Beard Award nominations were announced in New York City Wednesday and two Portland stalwarts, Eventide Oyster Company and Allagash Brewing Company, rocketed to the top. There were 12 semifinalists from Maine looking to inch closer to the prestigious food and beverage honor.
This is the third nomination for popular Portland raw bar Eventide, famous for fried oyster buns and brown butter lobster rolls. Chefs Mike Wiley and Andrew Taylor join four other cooks, from greater Boston to Providence, RI, duking it out for the best chef Northeast title.
“We are pumped. The lineup is incredible,” Arlin Smith, owner of Eventide Oyster Co., said when reached on the phone minutes after the announcement. “It legitimizes what we are doing. We are honored to be on there, it’s a respected award. Hopefully this year we will take a medal home.”
Smith singled out Rhode Island chef Benjamin Sukle of Birch in Providence as a fellow nominee he respects. “We couldn’t be happier to be with him,” said Smith.
Rob Tod, founder of Belgian beer craft brewery Allagash, has been shorted for a James Beard in the past. He joins big names in the drink industry, including Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Delaware and lesser known producers such as Foggy Ridge Cider in Virginia, under the Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional category.
Sadly, midcoast restaurants, such as Beard first-timer Chase’s Daily in Belfast, did not advance to the next round. But, according to semifinalist and “rising chef” hopeful Cara Stadler of Tao Yuan in Brunswick, “it’s just an honor to be recognized.”
The James Beard Awards will be announced at a gala in Chicago on May 1.