Ian Driscoll, chef at Bar Futo, which is pictured here, has been nominated for a James Beard Award in the category of Best Chef: Northeast. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Ten Maine restaurants and bakeries, or the food professionals behind them, were named semifinalists for James Beard Awards Wednesday. They include four Portland chefs in the Best Chef: Northeast category and others in highly competitive national categories, including Best New Restaurant, Outstanding Restaurateur and Outstanding Bakery.

Several of Maine’s semifinalists have been nominated before, including Atsuko Fujimoto of Norimoto Bakery; Cara Stadler of Tao Yuan, BaoBao Dumpling House and ZaoZe Café; and Portland restaurants Leeward, Woodford Food & Beverage and The Honey Paw. First-time nominees include The Alna Store, Zu Bakery, Celia Bruns of Artemisia Cafe and Joe Robbins of Bissell Brothers Three Rivers. There are about 20 semifinalists in most categories.

Stadler and her mother and partner Cecile Stadler were nominated in the category of Outstanding Restaurateur for their three restaurants in Brunswick and Portland. Tao Yuan reopened for regular service this October for the first time since it was shuttered for the pandemic. Stadler or her restaurants have made the semifinalist list six times in the past, five of those times for Rising Star Chef of the Year, a category that has since been recast as Emerging Chef. In 2015, Cara Stadler was a finalist in that category.

Cara Stadler prepares pork sung bun with cilantro, sweet soy and spruce berry at Tao Yuan in Brunswick in May. Sofia Aldinio/Staff Photographer

Robbins of Bissell Brothers Three Rivers Kitchen in Milo, in central Maine, was nominated in the category of Emerging Chef, while The Alna Store, in the tiny Midcoast town of Alna, made the list for Best New Restaurant, a larger category of about 30 semifinalists. Zu Bakery in Portland is a semifinalist for Outstanding Bakery, while Fujimoto of Norimoto Bakery, also in Portland, was nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker. This is the third time she’s received that same nomination; in 2022, she was a finalist in the category.

Woodford Food & Beverage, in Portland, was named in the Outstanding Hospitality category. The restaurant’s chef, Courtney Loreg, previously has been a semifinalist and finalist for regional Best Chef. Last year, The Quarry restaurant in remote Monson brought home the award for Outstanding Hospitality, and the town held a parade in honor of chef/owner Marilou Ranta.

The dining room and bar at Woodford Food & Beverage. The Portland restaurant was nominated for a James Beard Award for Outstanding Hospitality. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

The Beard Foundation also gives out regional awards for Best Chef. Maine falls into the Northeast category, along with Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Four Maine chefs, all from Portland restaurants, were listed in the category of Best Chef: Northeast, and not all of them the names you’d likely know from national lists or media coverage. Competing in that category are Celia Bruns of Artemisia Cafe, Ian Driscoll from Bar Futo, Valerie Goldman at The Honey Paw and Jake Stevens of Leeward.


The Honey Paw was nominated for Best New Restaurant in 2016. The restaurant is owned by Big Tree Hospitality, whose restaurant Eventide, or its chefs, has been nominated many times in the past; in 2017, then-chefs Mike Wiley and Andrew Taylor of Eventide jointly won as Best Chef: Northeast.

Jake Stevens, the chef and co-owner of Leeward, is a semifinalist for Best Chef: Northeast. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Leeward, too, has appeared in the ranks of Beard awardees before. It was a finalist for Best New Restaurant in 2022, when its then-pastry chef Kate Hamm was a semifinalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef. She’s since moved on to open her own restaurant, Fish & Whistle in Biddeford.

A smaller list of finalists for each award will be announced April 3, and the winners will be named in a ceremony from the stage of the Lyric Opera in Chicago on June 10.

According to the nonprofit James Beard Foundation, the awards, which are given to chefs and restaurants in 22 categories, “recognize exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality, media and broader food system, as well as a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability and a culture where all can thrive.” The media awards are announced April 30.

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