New York may be a culinary mecca, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of food talent. As such, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to highlight celebrity, notable, or otherwise up-and-coming chefs you should know about across the country.
Whoa guys! Before we get into hot hipster water over whether it’s possible to choose the best ten chefs in Portland — we’re talking about the
other Portland. You know, the one on the other side of the country — in Maine. But we still ran into the same dilemma, because this Portland — the one behind all the lobster fishermen in Fair Isle sweaters — has access to some of the best farms, fowl, and fish in the country. And, naturally, chefs from all over the world have made their home here, building what Bon Appetit Magazine called “The Foodiest Small Town in America.”
This time, our goal is to highlight some chefs without the national reputations and television appearances, but who still make knockout food that inspires the envy of many a food obsessive. So with a heavy heart, we whittled off
Dana Street, and sadly pruned Sam Hayward of the legendary Fore Street off our list. (Sorry, guys.) The chefs on our list, though, deserve just as much recognition.
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Andrew Taylor and Michael Wylie, Hugo's
To understand these two, let's talk a bit about their mentor, Rob Evans. He's one of the most lauded chefs in Portland, with a Food and Wine Best New Chef in 2004 and a James Beard Award in 2009 for his fine-dining restaurant Hugo's. Evans retired recently, however, passing on the celebrated restaurant (which cooked foraged products, local foods, and pork belly before they were even Things) to his sous chefs, Andrew Taylor and Michael Wiley. By all accounts they've maintained Hugo's extremely high standards.
Rob Evans, Duckfat
So where's Rob Evans now? Nowadays, the chef splits his time between his farm (Mainers and their farms!) and his casual, Belgian pub fare restaurant Duckfat, which can be summed up thusly by this tipster: "There are few places that are wait-in-line-out-the-door good. This is one of those places."
David Iovino, The Blue Spoon
David Iovino hasn't won giant national accolades yet, but that didn't stop him from making this list. The Blue Spoon, a tiny restaurant with bold flavors, has the love of locals for Iovino's creative spin on European cuisine. After years in New York, Iovino plans on becoming a Portland restaurateur -- and if he can recreate The Blue Spoon in other locations, he'll have a strong presence in Portland for years to come.
The Blue Spoon; call 207-773-1116 for reservations. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday and Sunday Brunch. 89 Congress Street, Portland, ME
Demos Regas, Emilitsa
Yes, Greek food in Portland is absolutely a thing, and it's telling when one Greek restaurant,
Emilitsa, has the reputation of being among the city's best. The Beard Award-nominated Demos Regas and his brother John, both first-generation Americans, had originally moved to Portland with plans to open a Greek fast-food joint, but decided to go upscale when they saw the gorgeous building they hoped to rent. "So we went this other route, with low lighting and nice music," Demos told DownEast.com. "The building just seemed like it was perfect for that type of crowd.” It's to Maine's benefit, too: as one Portland resident gushed to us, " We went there for dinner on Friday night and I didn't want it to end. Ever. Just an incredible meal."
Erik and Krista Kerns Desjarlais, Bresca
Heyo, power couple alert! Both Erik and Krista are chefs, but it's Krista with the James Beard nomination for her restaurant Bresca, the culmination of her experience after years with Alfred Portale and Guy Savoy. Erik, however, ran his own successful restaurant, Evangeline, during their marriage, and
proposed to Krista over dinner at the legendary, obscenely hedonistic Montreal restaurant Au Pied Du Cochon. What a real cheffy couple! (Erik is now a stay-at-home dad in addition to his chef duties.)
Justin Rowe, Chebeague Island Inn
A relative up-and-comer in the Portland food scene, Justin Rowe of the Chebeague Inn has
already wowed the son of with his artisinal fluffernutter sandwich. (He Saveur's deputy editor won the editor mom over with his tasting menu, as well.) Locals have known and raved about his food for ages, and it's only a matter of time until this young chef, veteran of the local kitchens, starts making a national name for himself, too. Plus: he personally ferries his guests over to his hotel! How nice is that?
[ Chebeague Island Inn]
Masa Miyake, Miyake
Not many world-class sushi chefs can claim that they have their own farm.
Masa Miyake, however, has three acres behind his house where he raises all the produce and meat he uses in his restaurant Miyake -- pigs, chickens, guinea fowl, and vegetables native to Japan. But it's the fish he pulls out of the sea that built Miyake's reputation as a sushi chef with a Maine bent (quahog sushi? Lobster sashimi? Really? Apparently, yes, according to the New York Times and many, many others.)
Steve Corry, 555
Oddly enough, Steve Corry got his start as a microbrewer -- and stopped when it started to become too big. "I was worried about the trendiness of the brewing industry—would craft beer turn into martinis?" he told F&W. "But everyone needs to eat." While we'll point out that he sounds a bit like a hipster, we'll forgive him because of the work he did with 555: with a strong emphasis on local ingredients and straightforward presentation, Corry's food won him a Best New Chef award from Food and Wine, as well as
whispers that his restaurant could stand up to Portland classic Fore Street.
Bonus: His wife Michelle Corry runs the equally-lauded
Petit Jacqueline, bumping this list to 11 Portland Chefs. (See? We can't fit enough in this list!)