Maine chefs make up a full third of the semifinalists for the prestigious James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Northeast, odds that bode well for at least one of them making the list of finalists in March.
Three Portland chefs or chef teams are on the semifinalist list, including Krista Kern Desjarlais of Bresca, who was nominated for the first time last year; Demos Regas of Emilitsa; and first-time nominees Danai Sriprasert and Nattasak Wongsaichua of Boda.
Nominated from elsewhere in the state were Brian Hill of Francine Bistro in Camden and Pennelle, Megan, and Phoebe Chase and Ted LaFage of Chase’s Daily in Belfast.
Petite Jacqueline, Portland’s new French bistro, was nominated in the Best New Restaurant category, and Fore Street received another nod in the Outstanding Restaurant category.
Melissa Kelly, chef and co-owner of Primo in Rockland, was nominated in the Outstanding Chef category.
The James Beard Foundation Awards are known as the Oscars of the food and beverage industries. The foundation announced that it received a record 57,000 online entries this year competing for a spot in 20 restaurant and chef award categories.
Those online entries are tabulated by an independent accounting firm, which then turns over the results to a nominating committee that produces a ballot based on the results and eligibility requirements.
The semifinalist list will now be sent to an independent volunteer panel of more than 550 judges that includes past winners, restaurant critics, food editors and other knowledgeable people in the food world. The panel narrows the list down to five finalists in each category.
Finalists will be announced March 19 at The Palazzo in Las Vegas. Winners will be announced at a ceremony May 7 at Lincoln Center in New York City.