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
Alison Pray, Standard Baking Company, Portland
Outstanding Bar Program
Portland Hunt + Alpine Club, Portland
Outstanding Pastry Chef
Ilma Lopez, Piccolo, Portland
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