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Susan Axelrod

Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business for 15 years before turning to journalism. By day, she is the social media editor for Portland Press Herald. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs, preferably followed by a cocktail or a Maine beer. Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or saxelrod@mainetoday.com On Twitter: @susansaxelrod

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Posted: October 2, 2014

10 chefs will compete for Maine Lobster Chef of the Year at 2014 Harvest on the Harbor

Written by: Susan Axelrod
Four of the 10 chefs competing for 2014 Lobster Chef of the Year at Thursday's press conference where the line-up was announced. From left: Emcee Kerry Altiero; Maryann Lacroix of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative; Brandon Blethen, Robert's Maine Grill; Dwayne Whitelocke, Rocktide Inn; Steve Richards, Mine Oyster; Luke Cordes, Porthole Restaurant. Photo by Susan Axelrod

Four of the 10 chefs competing for 2014 Maine Lobster Chef of the Year attended Thursday’s press conference at Portland’s Ocean Gateway where the line-up was announced. From left: Emcee Kerry Altiero, chef/owner of Cafe Miranda; Marianne Lacroix of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative; Brandon Blethen, Robert’s Maine Grill; Dwayne Whitelocke, Rocktide Inn; Steve Richards, Mine Oyster; Luke Cordes, Porthole Restaurant. Photo by Susan Axelrod

If you are one of the 200 people lucky enough to have scored a ticket to the already sold-out Lobster Chef of the Year competition at Harvest on the Harbor later this month, you’re in for something new. Instead of four chefs on a stage competing live for judges and an audience seated at tables — the format in previous years, this year, 10 Maine chefs will each prepare a lobster “bite.” Guests at the event, held on Oct.24 at Portland’s Ocean Gateway, get to interact with the chefs as they wander from station to station to taste the offerings and vote on their favorites. Before the audience tasting gets under way, a panel of four judges will taste each bite blind, rating them on taste, presentation and creativity. The judge and audience votes will be tallied to determine the winner, a title that garners considerable cachet, and a $1,000 check.

The competing chefs and judges were announced at a press conference on Thursday morning at Ocean Gateway, hosted by the Greater Portland Convention + Visitors Bureau (CVB). Prior to the announcement, CVB President and CEO Lynn Tillotson said that tickets to the 7th annual food and wine festival, Oct. 22 – 25, have already been sold to people from 29 different states and two foreign countries. To improve the festival’s environmental impact, the CVB has partnered with Garbage to Garden to compost as much food waste as possible. Students in the University of Southern Maine’s Hospitality program are also conducting a study to determine how the festival’s carbon footprint can be lessened in future years, Tillotson said.

Eight of the competing chefs were nominated by their peers and selected by an advisory panel: 2013 Maine Lobster Chef of the Year Chris Long of Natalie’s at Camden Harbour Inn; Issac Aldrich, Sebasco Harbor Resort; Brandon Blethen, Robert’s Maine Grill; Lindsay Bradeen, The Phat Boys Cafe; Luke Cordes, The Porthole Restaurant; Abby Freethy, Northwoods Gourmet Girl; Brandon Hicks, Prentice Hospitality Group (Chebeague Island Inn); and Margaret McLellan, Sheepscot Harbour Village and Resort.  Steve Richards of Mine Oyster and Dwayne Whitelocke of Rocktide Inn — both in Boothbay Harbor — secured the chance to compete as winners of the Claw Down lobster cooking contest in Boothbay last month.

Judges for Maine Lobster Chef of the Year are Shannon Bard, chef/owner of Zapoteca in Portland; Dick Grotton, former president of the Maine Restaurant Association; Harding Lee Smith, chef/owner of Portland’s “The Rooms” restaurants and Virginia Wright, senior editor at Down East Magazine. Kerry Altiero of Cafe Miranda, Maine Lobster Chef of the Year 2012, will emcee.

Bard and Smith will be especially busy at this year’s Harvest on the Harbor. Both are also cooking at a new event, Harvest Dinner on the Stage, which kicks off the festival on Oct. 22. Seven chefs are each preparing a course, served to guests seated on the stage at Merrill Auditorium, “surrounded by the newly restored Kotzschmar Organ,” Tillotson said. In addition to Bard and Smith, the chefs are: Cara Stadler, chef/owner of Tao Yuan in Brunswick and the soon-to-open Bao Bao Dumpling House in Portland; David Turin of David’s Restaurants in Portland, South Portland and Kennebunkport, Michele Ragussis of The Pearl in Rockland; Ilma Lopez of Piccolo and Blue Rooster Food Co. in Portland and Eric Flynn of Harraseeket Inn in Freeport. Erica Archer of Wine Wise is the evening’s emcee. Tickets are $150, $25 of which will go to Good Shepherd Food Bank’s Summer Meal Service Program. Coffee by Design in Portland has stepped up to match each $25 contribution, Tillotson said.

 

 

 

 

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