March 20, 2013

Portland chefs win 'Best New Chef' contest

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Chefs Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley of Eventide Oyster Co. in Portland have been named "The People's Best New Chef" for New England in an annual contest sponsored by Food & Wine magazine.

click image to enlarge

Mike Wiley, left, and Andrew Taylor, chefs and owners of Eventide Oyster Co., are winners of Food & Wine Magazine's Best New Chef award.

Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer

FOR MORE on how Eventide's owners generated social media support and votes for The People’s Best New Chef contest, read Rob Gould's Social Social blog.

"I think it's fantastic," Taylor said. "We had such stiff competition -- wonderful chefs in the region -- and we're pretty psyched to come out on top in the region. It really speaks volumes about all the people that supported us."

Over the past week, the dining public voted online for one of 100 outstanding chefs or chef teams from 10 regions around the country. The national winner was Brendan McGill from Bainbridge Island, Wash.

Taylor and Wylie, who are also co-owners of Hugo's, were the only chefs from Maine to be nominated this year. They decided to have fun with it and produced a humorous video, similar to an Obama campaign video, that showed them meeting with fishermen and kissing babies as they campaigned for votes.

"Our Facebook page reached over 30,000 people that week," Taylor said. "It was just incredible. It really gave us the opportunity to expose ourselves to everybody."

That kind of exposure brings more customers, and the chefs are trying to accommodate more by adding outdoor seating for 16 this summer.

Wiley said a restaurant's personality can be as important as the food (although fans of Eventide's oyster buns may argue that point), and the video "was an opportunity for us to inject a little more personality into it."

"People go online, they see the website, they read our bios on the Eventide page, which are a little silly, to get a feeling of who we are as people," he said. "I think this whole ad campaign was straight from the hip. We just had a lot of fun doing it. I think it was a real expression of our senses of humor."

Eventide Oyster Co. hasn't been open for even a year yet, so the chefs didn't have great expectations of taking the national title.

But winning the regional Food & Wine competition is "what we were shooting for," said Arlin Smith, general manager and co-owner of Eventide and Hugo's.

"It's really a big deal to win national," Smith said. "For us to be open six months, it's hard to picture (winning) that. But for us to win our region, it's a huge accomplishment."

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

mgoad@pressherald.com

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