Maine will be well represented at the 2016 James Beard Awards ceremony Monday in Chicago, with three chefs and one craft brewer up for the coveted medals.

Mike Wiley and Andrew Taylor, co-owners of Eventide Oyster Co., Hugo’s and The Honey Paw in Portland, are nominated together for Best Chef: Northeast, along with Brian Hill, chef/owner of Francine Bistro in Camden and Shepherd’s Pie in Rockport. Each faces four other finalists.

Rob Tod, founder of Allagash Brewing Co. in Portland, is nominated for Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional. He, too, faces four other finalists.

Here’s a not-so-serious glance at the nominees and the lighter side of their lives in the world of food.

Full disclosure: I serve as a regional panelist for the Beard awards, which means I am among 25 to 30 journalists and food writers who submit names for awards consideration from this region during the open call for entries, then vote on semifinalists and finalists. The voting is now closed.



Mike Wiley with some decidedly un-cheffy Andy Capp's Hot Fries.

Mike Wiley with some decidedly un-cheffy Andy Capp’s Hot Fries.

First item you ever cooked that made you think you’d like to be a chef: I talked my parents into letting me go to the grocery store, and they agreed to pay for it if I cooked a nice dinner. My definition of a nice dinner, as it turns out – I think it’s in the “Cafe Boulud Cookbook” by Daniel Boulud and Dorie Greenspan – is a duck confit and a lobster garbure (garbure is – usually – a rustic French stew), which if you want to make enough to feed your younger brother and your parents, you’ve got to spend $200 to get the ingredients. My parents weren’t too impressed with that, but it came out OK. That was really the first time I thought “I am in charge of this meal” – maybe not from a financial standpoint, but I liked that. It resonated with me.

Worst professional disaster: I’ve shown up catastrophically late to work, but apart from that…

Dream dining destination: Probably Restaurant Bras, Michel Bras’ restaurant on the Aubrac plateau in France. That guy is just some sort of culinary Jedi. Everyone speaks his name in hushed tones. Reading his book was really, really formative for me.

Guilty food pleasure: I absolutely love a snack food called Andy Capp’s Hot Fries. If I stop and buy gas, I’m probably going to buy a bag of those chips. It’s a good thing I do most of my commuting on my bike.

Last meal on Earth: We just discovered that dipping potato chips in foaming butter is really delicious and that seems like the kind of thing you should be eating if you’re looking toward the end.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are coming to dinner at your house. What’s for dinner? It might be a nice gesture to try to figure out what the mean American budget for a meal is and then very pointedly cook them $13 worth of food, or whatever that number would be. If I’m taking a political stance, I would probably do that. Otherwise, I’d roast them a chicken. Why not? It’s American.



Foraging = fun for Andrew Taylor, tucking into dandelion greens and a beer.

Foraging = fun for Andrew Taylor, tucking into dandelion greens and a beer.

Worst professional disaster: Undercooking a piece of a whole fish for Ken Oringer when I was working at Clio. It was the first time he’d ever eaten in the dining room with his family, and I sent out an undercooked piece of fish. That was a bad night.

Favorite food to cook for your kids: I’ll make whatever elaborate meal I want to feed my wife and force them to eat it, which doesn’t always work. Last night I did smoked pork chops and lentils and grilled asparagus. Some things went over well and other things didn’t. We’re not a big mac-n-cheese and hot dog family. We try to feed them adult food, and hopefully they’ll get acclimated to eating well.

Favorite place to shop for food in Maine: Definitely the woods. If I have spare time, in the summer I’m always walking around trying to find mushrooms and ramps and wild edibles. It’s free, too, which is nice.

Complete this sentence: If Mike suddenly disappeared, I would want to cook with: Let’s say Rene Redzepi (chef of Noma in Copenhagen). He sort of reinvented food in the 21st century.

Last meal on Earth: Pretty boring here, but roast chicken. It’s hard to beat a good roast chicken. It’s just one of those things that doesn’t get old.



Brian Hill, a chef from Camden, with a loaded hot dog.

Brian Hill, a chef from Camden, with a loaded hot dog.

First item you ever cooked that made you think you’d like to be a chef: Challah bread. I made it out of a “Zoom” cookbook – that old ’70s TV show, “Zoom.” And then I copied a cheese soufflé from Julia Child doing the great French chef series. I was so obsessed with cheese at the time – of course all little kids are obsessed with cheese – but the idea that you could make cheese that was big and puffy, it just seemed like the coolest thing ever.

What you eat at midnight after the restaurant closes: Dan dan noodles, that Szechuan noodle dish that is both hot and cold so the Chinese noodles get crisped and then you put this incredibly spiced pork vinaigrette on top, and then cucumber and peanuts. It’s the antidote for all the sauces that you’ve tasted all day.

Worst professional disaster: It’s happened probably to every single chef who starts out in the kitchen, and that is forgetting to close the outlet on a fryer before you pour new oil in. So after you clean the fryolator you proceed to pour oil all over the kitchen floor.

Dream dining destination: I’d love to go to Tokyo and eat my way through the city. There’s just that level of perfection that they really try to reach (in Japan) that we rarely see in the western world. I’d like to go to some completely no-name place that costs $10 and get served a bowl of pork intestines.

Guilty food pleasure: Probably hot dogs. I love dressing up hot dogs. What Krista (Desjarlais) does at Bresca and the Honey Bee, where she puts slices of terrific pork pâté in there and turns it into an Indochinese hot dog, that is something that I’ve definitely dreamed of. That woman can definitely cook a hot dog.


Complete this sentence: If I weren’t a chef, I would be: A fisherman. I’m pretty good at fishing.

Last meal on Earth: Maybe a bucket of sea urchins on a beach in Sicily, accompanied only by lemon and a bottle of rosé.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are coming to dinner at your house. What’s for dinner? An arsenic tasting menu? Just kidding. Don’t call the Secret Service.


Rob Tod, founder of Allagash Brewing.

Rob Tod, founder of Allagash Brewing.

The first time you tried beer, what did you drink? I’ll go with the first time I drank a legal beer. In Washington, D.C., when I was either 18 or 19, I was down there with my dad, and I ordered a Brooklyn Brown off the menu. I really hadn’t had a full-flavored craft-brewed beer up to that point.

The first thing you drank on your recent trip to Belgium? An Orval, a beer made in a Trappist monastery very near the French border in Belgium. They brew all the beer on site and they only brew one beer, just available in one package. They make one exception: They brew a lower-alcohol beer that the monks drink, but it’s very difficult to get your hands on. I prefer beers that are on the drier side, and it’s a very dry beer.


If you weren’t making beer, what would you be doing? Teaching geology or some kind of woodworking or cabinetmaking. Those were the two things I planned on doing before I stumbled on washing kegs. Within two days, I knew that making beer was what I was going to be doing the rest of my life.

If you weren’t drinking beer, what would you be drinking? I’ll occasionally drink wine, or bourbon or Scotch. But I usually drink beer, and nine out of 10 beers that I drink are Allagash White. It’s my favorite thing on the planet, and with every passing year I love it more.

What do you do when you’re not at the brewery? I discovered surfing maybe eight or nine months ago, and I am completely addicted to it. I surf now whenever I have the opportunity. There’s a number of people at the brewery who are into it, and we surfed right through the winter. We actually were just in Belgium, so on Saturday we were surfing in the North Sea.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are dropping by your house for a beer. What do you serve them, and why? I’d serve them both Allagash White and not talk politics because I like to separate beer and politics.

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