Five Portland Chefs: Maine Course
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Although I’m a native New Englander, I confess that I hadn’t spent much time in Portland, Maine, until the late 1990s. My first real visit was simply to eat at Fore Street restaurant. My foodie friends were raving about chef Sam Hayward’s gorgeous food and his beautiful wood-burning ovens and grills. Their praise was prescient. He flashed across the nation’s dining galaxy — and continues to shine there today. In 2004 the James Beard Foundation named him “Best Chef: Northeast.”
Needless to say, my experiences at Fore Street didn’t disappoint, and I returned to the city again and again, noodling around the narrow cobblestone byways of the Old Port neighborhood and up toward busy Congress Street, discovering stylish fashion and home-goods stores, too-many-to-count art galleries, and all manner of fascinating architecture along the way. I also poked my head into many of the restaurants in this small city and found that Sam’s assertive use of locally produced food, from seafood to cheese to poultry to lamb, had spread throughout the community.
Portland’s culinary reputation continues to grow nationwide. In 2004, Food & Wine magazine named Hugo’s Rob Evans one of “America’s Best New Chefs,” an honor it bestowed last year on 555’s Steve Corry. It’s not unusual to talk with people who vacation in Portland just to dine — the scene is that varied. That good.