12 Maine Semi-Finalists Announced for the 2020 James Beard Awards

12 Maine Semi-Finalists Announced for the 2020 James Beard Awards

The nationally acclaimed food scene in Maine received yet another boost on February 26 when a dozen chefs, bakers, bars and restaurants were singled out as semifinalists for the 2020 James Beard Awards by the James Beard Foundation. The high-profile awards are the restaurant industry's highest honor and recognize and celebrate excellence across 23 categories. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the awards, which honor the work of chefs, restaurants, journalists, authors and other leaders in the food and beverage industry.

The judges ranged across the state of Maine, choosing semifinalists in Biddeford, North Yarmouth, Rockland, Camden and Deer Isle, as well as Portland, Bon Appetit magazine's 2018 Restaurant City of the Year. The announcement comes at the start of Maine Restaurant Week, from March 1-12, 2020.

Nominees for these awards “show exceptional talent and creativity in their craft and commendable leadership among their colleagues and peers.” The Maine semifinalists include eight chefs who are nominated in the Best Chef: Northeast category, including one team of two chefs. They are:

  • Krista Kern Desjarlais of The Purple House in North Yarmouth
  • Vien Dobui of Công Tu Bot in Portland
  • Devin Finigan of Aragosta at Goose Cove in Deer Isle
  • Erin French of The Lost Kitchen in Freedom
  • Ben Jackson of Drifters Wife in Portland
  • Greg Mitchell and Chad Conley of the Palace Diner in Biddeford
  • Ravin Nakjaroen of Long Grain in Camden

Apart from Devin Finigan and Ben Jackson, all of the Maine-nominated chefs have been semifinalists in previous years. Other nominees from Maine include:

  • Briana Holtof Tandem Coffee + Bakery in Portland in the Outstanding Baker category
  • Fore Streetin Portland is a semifinalist for the eighth time in the Outstanding Restaurant category and was a finalist in this category in 2010; Fore Street's founding chef, Sam Hayward, was the first Maine chef to ever receive a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northeast in 2004.
  • Melissa Kelly, chef/owner of Primo in Rockland, in the Outstanding Chef category; Kelly has previously won the Best Chef: Northeast award twice, once for Primo and once at Old Chatham Sheepherding Company Inn in New York's Hudson Valley
  • Novare Res Bier Cafein Portland for Outstanding Bar Program

There are approximately 20 semifinalists in each category and they are judged by a voting body comprised of more than 300 previous James Beard Restaurant & Chef Award winners and more than 250 panelists divided evenly among the award regions, as well as the 18 members of the Restaurant and Chef Award subcommittee. All votes count equally and are tabulated by an independent accounting firm. The five semifinalists with the highest number of votes become the nominees. The finalists will be announced on March 25 in Philadelphia and the winners will be announced at an awards gala in Chicago on May 4.

For more information, visit the James Beard Foundation.