And the winners of Lobsterpalooza’s best lobster mac ‘n’ cheese dish are....

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 3:45pm

ROCKLAND — What goes into a winning lobster mac ‘n’ cheese recipe?

“Lots and lots of love,” said Graffam Bros. Seafood Market chef Becky Butler, winner of the first place professional chef category. Translation: lots and lots of butter.

The Second annual Lobster Mac ‘n’ Cheese Contest, held at the Rockland Elks Club Sept. 20, drew dozens of people who came to try the small tastings from 20 professional chefs and 10 amateurs (people not involved in food preparation for sale.)

The chefs entered were from all over the state and included Graffam Bros. Seafood Market, DiMillo's On the Water, Linda Bean's Maine Lobster, Kenduskeag Golf & Country Club, Hilton Garden Inn Auburn Riverwatch, The Lobster Shack, Mermaid at the Homeport and East Wind Inn.

Even though lobster was in every offering, the contest for the judges and the people’s choice truly came down to the taste and consistency of the mac ‘n’ cheese. Each bite of the creamy little dish varied considerably from cook to chef, with some recipes opting to use either spiral pasta, elbows or shells. Some threw in curry or cayenne, while others augmented with bread crumbs and corn.

Professional judges did a blind test of the mac ‘n’ cheese tastings before the public arrived at 2 p.m., and the results of that contest were held off until everyone had had a chance to dig into a little paper serving cup from every cook or chef.

Deb Neuman, radio talk show host from Blueberry Broadcasting, emceed the event, broadcasting live as she announced the winners.

Graffam Bros. Seafood Market won first place in the professional category as well as the People’s Choice professional category, attributing their winning recipe to Butler, who admitted she’d just come up with the recipe on the spot. They used small elbow macaroni and balanced it out with a perfect blend of cheese, which gave it a delicious comfort food taste. And when it comes to lobster, they didn’t have to go far to procure that.  Given that they came in third place last year, owner Kimberlee Graffam said this year’s win felt “fantastic.” When Graffam Bros. Seafood Market was announced, Butler’s small son announced to the crowd “We did it!”

In the amateur chef category: Maynard Stanley of Owls Head took the top honor. Stanley, who is known locally as “Critter Catcher” as he specializes in humane wildlife removal, told us his recipe was also just something he’d made up.

“This is the first time I’ve won here at Lobsterpalooza, but I won second place for this recipe at the Lobster Festival this year,” he said. “I just like competing.”

Stanley used corkscrew pasta and added several cheeses into his modified Alfredo sauce, including his secret ingredient, Butterkraft cheese from Maine Street Meats.

”That’s the only place I found it,” he said.  As for the lobster, he bought it locally and cooked it himself. ”Haven’t had a bad one yet,” he said. “Maine lobster is always good.”

The contestants were helped by sponsors Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine Lobster, which agreed to sell five pounds of lobster to participating chefs at a reduced wholesale price, and The State of Maine Cheese Co., which provided their locally made cheeses, also at a discount.

Other winners included:

Professional awards:

Second place: Josh Dudley from Mermaid Tavern

third place: Joseph Robbins from the Kenduskeag Golf & Country Club's Wrong Turn Pub

Amateur awards:

Second place: Susan Matzell of Wiscasset

third place: William Deptula of Camden

People’s Choice award:

Second place: The Lobster Shack

All photos courtesy PJ Walter, co-owner of LimeRock Inn and one of Lobsterpalooza’s committee members. Nearly a dozen committee members and volunteers worked to make the event go smoothly. The event was also sponsored by Blueberry Broadcasting and Rockland Savings & Loan.

Kay Stephens can be reached at