All the media coverage around food – blogs, new publications, the renewed commitment from established outlets – is it too much for Maine?

On a frigid night in January, local food lovers packed the O’Maine Studios on Danforth Street to sample cocktails and watch the debut of the O’Maine Media Kitchen, a new addition to the Portland food scene where chefs can film demonstrations or teach cooking classes.

Mac MacGaw, the bartender at Natalie’s restaurant in Camden, prepared a “Ruby Sipper” made with Wyman’s Cherry Fruition – a new product being showcased at the event. Shannon Bard, chef/owner of Zapoteca in Portland, broke in the new media kitchen by making duck breast with Wyman cherry-chile sauce. Milling about the studios were legions of the city’s food elite – chefs and restaurateurs, to be sure, but also food writers, food editors, food photographers, food bloggers and public relations professionals who specialize in food.

A gathering of local food media this large probably couldn’t have happened a decade ago, but as Portland’s culinary reputation has grown, so has the media covering it. Newcomers like the O’Maine Studios and Zest, a quarterly food magazine, are bringing a fresh eye to the scene, while traditional media (including the Maine Sunday Telegram, which last year launched Source, a new section on “eating and living sustainably in Maine”) are expanding their food coverage to capture more eyeballs and advertising dollars. Food bloggers come and go, but mostly they morph onto different platforms.

In interviews with a handful of big players in the state’s growing food media, writers, editors and publishers agreed that demand for food content is high, there’s no shortage of great stories, and there’s room for everybody – both professionals and amateurs. They added that Mainers are interested in reading about far more than chefs and restaurants. As Rory Strunk, founder of O’Maine Studios put it, Maine is filled with rich tales and colorful characters. Oyster farmers, lobster fishermen, organic vegetable growers – everybody’s got a food story.

“I think in general the interest in food and food programming is going to grow,” Strunk said.

That’s why he decided to start his business in Portland; he saw Maine as “a worthy bet.”

Linda Horstmann, publisher of the new magazine Zest, agreed. Horstmann and creative director Nancy Gordon are the same team that founded Maine Home + Design, a magazine that features furniture makers, carpenters and other local artisans. Horstmann says they started that magazine because they saw “so much talent in one location, and no location for that talent.” Likewise, Horstmann said Zest, which covers an area from Bar Harbor to Kittery, has its own niche, focusing on the state’s food, which she says has become a “big piece of the economy.”

Zest targets readers who are affluent, well-educated and between 30 to 70 years old. The first several issues have been free with 20,000 copies distributed around the state; soon the publication plans to start charging.

Horstmann isn’t worried about competition. She said she focuses on quality. “We’re all competing, obviously, but you can’t lose your perspective on what you’re building.”

Kathleen Fleury, executive editor of Down East magazine, said Down East began expanding its food coverage beyond restaurant reviews about eight years ago. Both the number of restaurants and the amount of food coverage in the state has been growing exponentially, she said; she doubts it can sustain that pace. “But I don’t think the interest and the desire for that content is going to go away.”

Food in Maine has become a lifestyle, a part of the state’s identity, Fleury said, reflecting Mainers’ values: Where does their food come from? What do they spend their money on? “You’re making a statement with every dollar you spend,” she said.

Kevin Thomas is publisher of Maine, Maine Home + Design and Old Port magazines, all of which cover local food to some extent. He decided to launch the Old Port publication, with even more focus on food and restaurants, based on “informed instinct” – informed, he explained, by reader feedback. Still, Thomas said, he expects casualties.

“I don’t think it will be because readers don’t want more food content,” he said, but because media hasn’t yet figured out how to pay the bills in the age of the internet.

The question of how much coverage is too much sounds like what people have said about the local restaurant industry for years: Can this small city handle even more new restaurants, and who will patronize them? Yet, according to the blog, more than 20 restaurants or other food businesses are in development in Portland now, and Anestes Fotiades, editor of the blog, guesses as many as 15 more could be in the works that no one yet knows about.

Fotiades has a copy of the Maine Times from way back in 1978 asking whether restaurants in Portland have reached the saturation point. “There were only, like, 10 restaurants in the entire city,” he said. “In 1978, they thought if we haven’t reached the tipping point, we’re really close … which in hindsight seems ridiculous.”

Today, many chefs say more restaurants just means the bar for success is set higher, and the mediocre places will fail. Hilary Nangle, a travel writer who writes a lot about food on her blog, Maine Travel Maven, sees a parallel.

“A couple of years ago, the tone of the conversation changed, as there seemed to be no end to Portland’s seemingly insatiable appetite for new food options,” she said. “I think the same can be said about the number of blogs, websites, and publications covering Greater Portland’s food and drink scene.”

The number of online platforms for expressing one’s passion for food has also grown with the addition of social media sites such as Instagram and Pinterest. More people seem to be participating in the community’s conversations about food than ever before.

But Malcolm Bedell, who writes the From Away blog, isn’t worried about the numbers.

“The Internet is a huge place, and the low barrier to entry makes it easy for anyone with a voice to start a blog and find an audience,” Bedell wrote in an e-mail. “When faced with increasing competition for eyeballs online, though, independent journalists will have to get better and better. There isn’t much room, anymore, for iPhoned photos of someone’s Amaro-filtered lunch. Instead, bloggers will have to treat their blogs like real paying jobs, invest in some equipment, learn to take a good food photo, and cover more in-depth topics, including interviews with purveyors and chefs, or reverse-engineered recipes from local restaurants. At least, that’s the kind of food blog I’d want to read.”

Whether or not a commercial publication or TV show will last will probably depend on whether it makes money. In food, as with all coverage these days, readers don’t want to pay, but producing quality content is difficult, and costs money. On the other hand, “there’s a lot of food coverage that is hobbyist-based, meaning that people don’t need to monetize it,” Fleury said.

Fotiades said if mainstream media can’t generate enough revenue on the subject of food, they’ll turn to other topics. But like the others interviewed, he isn’t worried food writers and producers will run out of material.

“There are a ton of stories out there,” he said. “Just a ton of stories. There are so many interviews to be had and articles to be written that haven’t been told yet that I don’t think at all that we’re at a point where people are tripping over each other and there’s nothing left to talk about.”

Nationally, it may be a different story.

“I do think that we’re bound, not just in Portland, but as a nation and a culture, to grow exhausted by all of this relentless food coverage and deification of chefs,” Bedell said. “It’s just not going to start here, where the attention and energy lavished on cooks and cooking still seems to be so well-deserved, and while there’s still so much room for exceptional food media to really take off.”