Eventide’s Mike Wiley and Andrew Taylor win James Beard Award
The third time’s a charm. After being named finalists for the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Northeast three years in a row, Mike Wiley and Andrew Taylor have brought home the prize. The two are chefs and co-owners of three Portland restaurants, Eventide Oyster Co., the Honey Paw, and Hugo’s. The third partner is general manager and co-owner Arlin Smith. Wiley and Taylor accepted the award Monday night at the James Beard Awards Gala in Chicago. “Thank you to our amazing crew back in Portland, Maine. This belongs to you,” said Wiley. Taylor also thanked Smith, saying a third of the award was his. The prize is considered to be the highest honor in the American restaurant and culinary community. Nominees for the Best Chef Award must have worked for at least five years as chefs and “have set new or consistent standards of excellence in their respective regions,” according to the foundation. Wiley and Taylor were up against tough competition from the region, including chefs from Myers and Chang in Boston, Birch in Providence, and Shepard in Cambridge. The duo joins the small but stellar ranks of Maine chefs who have earned a James Beard Award, including Sam Hayward of Fore Street, Melissa Kelly of Primo, Rob Evans of Duckfat (formerly of Hugo’s), and Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier of M.C. Perkins Cove (formerly of Arrows Restaurant).
Eventide Oyster Co. has earned much acclaim, appearing on countless “best of” lists since opening in 2012. Food and Wine magazine included it on the “America’s Best Oyster Bars” list and named Taylor and Wiley as “People’s Best New Chef” for New England in 2013. Also in 2013, Bon Appétit put Eventide on its annual roster of “Top 50 New Restaurant” in the United States. The restaurant has a laid-back vibe, with mostly bar seating and some picnic tables for groups. Eventide’s centerpiece is a block of Maine granite holding piles of oysters on ice. Local oysters are well represented, coming from Pemaquid, North Haven, Flying Point, and other locales based on availability, but you’ll also find oysters from away. The menu is creative without being complicated, offering crudo, sandwiches, and chowders. But its wildly popular Eventide brown butter lobster roll has become the restaurant’s signature dish. The steamed Asian-style bun, generously stuffed with fresh lobster soaked in a brown butter vinaigrette, is a far cry from your classic New England lobster roll, but it’s a fabulously tasty alternative worth seeking out. Sparkling wine or one of Eventide’s excellent cocktails is a favorite accompaniment. Seafood lovers in the Boston area are eagerly awaiting the opening of Eventide Fenway, planned for this summer.
Taylor, Wiley, and Smith who were named to Maine magazine’s “50 Mainers” list in 2016, oversee their mini-empire of restaurants on Middle Street, all part of Big Tree Hospitality restaurant group. Eventide is sandwiched between the Honey Paw and Hugo’s. The crew has evolved the acclaimed Hugo’s into a destination for refined yet adventurous dining. The multi-course tasting menu is a luxurious treat, stretching over a wide array of tastes. The Honey Paw is the newest venture, a casual and bustling spot serving seasonal dishes with an “Asian sensibility” and addictive house-made noodles. Every dish is complex and bold, from the smoked lamb khao soi and mapo dofu to Vietnamese masa crepe full of seafood and mushroom udon. We always save room for dessert because the soft serve with chocolate shell and honeycomb is our favorite way to end a meal.
We offer our sincerest congratulations to Andrew Taylor, Mike Wiley, and Arlin Smith. Thank you for showing the rest of the country the amazing talent that’s here in Maine. We’re so happy for you and sincerely hope we can get a seat at the table this summer.