Camden, Freedom, Rockland chefs, Belfast restaurant named James Beard semifinalists

Posted:  Friday, February 16, 2018 - 12:00pm

NEW YORK CITY — Three Midcoast area chefs and one Belfast restaurant have been named semifinalists for 2018 James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef awards, the foundation announced on Thursday, February 15. According to the James Beard Foundation website, final Restaurant and Chef Award nominees, as well as the nominees for their Media and Restaurant Design Awards, will be announced in Philadelphia on Wednesday, March 14. The announcement will be streamed live. 

The awards ceremony will take place Friday, April 27, at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers in New York City. The 2018 James Beard Awards Gala will take place on Monday, May 7, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Local semifinalists for Best Chef, Northeast include:

• Ravin Nakjaroen, of Long Grain in Camden;

• Erin French, of Lost Kitchen in Freedom; and,

• Keiko Suzuki Steinberger, of Suzuki's Sushi Bar in Rockland.

All three chefs have received prestigious James Beard nominations in recent years.

Chase’s Daily in Belfast has been named a semifinalist in the category of Outstanding Restaurant. Chase’s has previously achieved semifinalist status in that category.

Reactions in the local community and on Facebook expressed excitement — but not surprise — at the number of local chefs gracing the 2018 list of semifinalists.

Other nominees for Best Chef: Northeast include numerous New England-based chefs, and two additional Maine chefs: Krista Kern Desjarlais of The Purple House in North Yarmouth and Vien Dobui of Cong Tu Bot in Portland.

The full list of James Beard Foundation semifinalists for Best Chef: Northeast 2018 is as follows:

 Unmi Abkin, Coco & The Cellar Bar, Easthampton, Massachusetts

Karen Akunowicz, Myers + Chang, Boston

Tyler Anderson, Millwright's, Simsbury, Connecticut

Cara Chigazola-Tobin, Honey Road, Burlington, Vermont

Krista Kern Desjarlais, The Purple House, North Yarmouth, Maine

Vien Dobui, Cong Tu Bot, Portland, Maine

Tiffani Faison, Tiger Mama, Boston

Erin French, The Lost Kitchen, Freedom, Maine

Victor Parra Gonzalez, Las Puertas, Buffalo, New York

Seizi Imura, Cafe Sushi, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Brian Lewis, The Cottage, Westport, Connecticut

Matt Louis, Moxy, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Tony Messina, Uni, Boston, Massachusetts

Ravin Nakjaroen, Long Grain, Camden, Maine

Cassie Piuma, Sarma, Somerville, Massachusetts

Elizabeth Ronzetti and Adam Kopels, 18 Bay Restaurant, Shelter Island, New York

Champe Speidel, Persimmon, Providence, Rhode Island

Keiko Suzuki Steinberger, Suzuki's Sushi Bar, Rockland, Maine

Nick Suarez, Gaskins, Germantown, New York

Benjamin Sukle, Oberlin, Providence, Rhode Island

Additional notable Maine nominees include Chef Sam Hayward of Portland fine dining institution Fore Street, who has been named a 2018 Outstanding Chef semifinalist, and chef Cara Stadler of Tao Yuan in Brunswick who is a semifinalist in the Rising Star Chef of the Year category.


Jenna Lookner can be reached at