Ever notice what’s on the bookshelf at your favorite restaurants? Owner-Chef Mike Wiley talks about Hugo's Bookshelf.
Chefs/co-owners of Eventide Oyster Co. Andrew Taylor, 36, and Mike Wiley, 35, recently won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northeast for their wildly popular eatery in Portland, Maine and they’re set to open a Boston outpost in Fenway in August. The pair met as colleagues at Hugo’s in Portland, which they jointly purchased in 2012. Their company, Big Tree Hospitality, also operates the Honey Paw, an Asian-inflected restaurant, as well as a commissary, Big Tree Foods, in Biddeford, Maine.
Kim Rodgers, executive pastry chef at Hugo’s in Portland, Maine, sought to re-envision Waldorf salad for a dessert application. With lemon olive oil cake and cucumber ice cream as the foundation, she considered how she could work in the common Waldorf salad ingredients. Her conclusion was to add torn pieces of red butter lettuce, candied walnuts, shaved apple slices twisted into a cone, almost like a flower, and local green grapes juiced and turned into a foam. She also added Earl Grey mousse line, cucumber blossoms, lemon balm and Ruby Moon bean blossoms.
With the restaurants Hugo’s, Eventide and Honey Paw, the partners of Big Tree Hospitality have achieved remarkable success. This week we speak with Arlin Smith, Mike Wiley and Andrew Taylor about their own stories, winning the 2017 James Beard Award, and what life is like as they expand their business outside of Portland.
One of our most dramatic days of shooting happened in Acadia National Park on blesser-known strip of the northern coast, between Eastern Bay and Frenchman Bay. We set up a traditional beachside clambake among the rock formations known as the Ovens, which are accessible only at low tide and mostly only by kayak. There is no public parking in this corner of the park, but we were guests of Andrew Taylor, whose family has a house here and who, with partners Arlin Smith and Mike Wiley, owns two of Maine’s most acclaimed restaurants, Eventide Oyster and Hugo’s both in Portland.
“If you took nori away from us, we would just be floundering,” says Mike Wiley, chef and co-owner at Eventide Oyster Bar in downtown Portland, Maine. He smiles, a half-quirk that lifts one side of his face, before barreling on. “Nori is a huge part of what we do—especially our nori vinaigrette. We serve dash constantly in one form or another. Seaweed makes its way into many of our broths. We also use seaweed sheets almost like a hot dog casing to hold together various parts of fish—we poach it and it tightens up as it cooks and hydrates. We joke a lot about taking really nice local meat and vegetables and making it taste like gas station food. But we do that because we want that acidity, and a ton of salt and fat and richness.”
While Hugo’s, Eventide Oyster Co. and They Honey Paw have separate storefronts and entrances, they share a single kitchen. Each restaurant has its own line, and there is a larger prep area with a walk-in cooler. All three restaurants share the staff meal, which is served at 3:30 p.m. every day and prepared by multiple people.
“From the beginning, we didn’t want our staff meal to be an afterthought,” says Smith. “When I was working other restaurants, there were days when I would say, “Why did I wait around for this?” The meal was just such a disappointment. It totally defeated the purpose of having a family meal.”
Mike Wiley and Andrew Taylor, chef/co-owners of three Portland restaurants, and Rob Tod, founder of Allagash Brewing Co., have been named finalists for prestigious James Beard Awards.
Wiley and Taylor, who along with manager Arlin Smith own Eventide Oyster Co., The Honey Paw and Hugo’s, are competing in the category of Best Chef: Northeast.
This is the third nomination for the chefs, who were also finalists last year. Other finalists in their category are Karen Akunowicz of Meyers + Chang in Boston; Cassie Piuma of Sarma in Somerville, Massachusetts; Susan Regis of Shepard in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Benjamin Sukle of Birch in Providence.
Best Chef nominees, according to the James Beard Foundation, have worked as chefs for at least five years and “have set new or consistent standards of excellence in their respective regions.”
From Connecticut’s soft sandy beaches to Maine’s rugged granite shores, our Atlantic coastline is a place of beauty and wonder, lapping along five of the six New England states and drawing visitors from around the world. This week, we start in Ogunquit, Maine, named by Yankee magazine as the best beach town in New England. Next, we travel north to a rocky cove near Acadia National Park, where we create an authentic Maine clambake (right down to the Red Snapper hot dogs). And then it’s back to New England basics with a lesson in traditional boatbuilding in Newport, Rhode Island.
After clocking long shifts at Eventide Oyster Co. in Portland, Maine, chef Mike Wiley needs a gratifying meal, fast. “It’s a quick and dirty little fried fish sandwich,” he said of this week’s Slow Food Fast contribution, known at the restaurant as the Mike. “I eat it regularly.”
“I’ve only been to a handful of real clambakes in my life,” said Mike Wiley, co-chef and co-owner of three restaurants in Portland, Maine. “I mean the kind by the ocean, cooked with fresh seaweed and seawater. But I’ve tested countless clambake recipes at our restaurants.”
Cod has a mild, firm flesh that lends itself to a wide range of preparations. But Maine chef Mike Wiley is especially partial to poaching the fillets in olive oil. “The green, grassy oil perfumes the fish,” he said, “and the texture this technique achieves is remarkably luscious and light.”
As the days grow colder, scallops are the silver lining: The lower the water temperature, the plumper and sweeter they get. Mike Wiley, co-chef and co-owner of Eventide Oyster Co., Hugo’s and the Honey Paw in Portland, Maine, will be serving them liberally from here on in.
Text: Alyssa Bird
With gorgeous hotels, exciting cuisine, and plenty to see and do, these towns are perfect for your next escape.
Where to Eat: At Hugo’s, almost all of the ingredients on the menu are farmed, fished, or foraged in Maine. Its sister restaurant Eventide Oyster Co. is also worth checking out.
No. 37: Hugo's
It is rare when a restaurant continues to turn out high-quality food after the departure of its founder. But based on the amazing job that Andrew Taylor, Mike Wiley and GM Arlin Smith have been doing since they purchased Hugo’s from Rob Evans, it appears they have defied the odds. Not only have the trio completely refurbished the place, replacing the stodgy old dining room with a hipsterish 19-seat counter, complemented by a few tables along the back wall, reviewers are saying things like “at the moment, the restaurant is turning out some of the best food in the country.” One even went as far as to say his meal was reminiscent of Saison (number 1 in our 2014 survey.) That is rarified air indeed.
Fore Street and The Honey Paw, both in Portland, are among the restaurants named, and five chefs from four restaurants are in the running for Best Chef: Northeast.
Nine Maine restaurants, chefs and brewmasters are among this year’s semifinalists for James Beard Awards, considered the most prestigious in the American food world.
Maine’s 2016 semifinalists cover seven categories – there are 21 restaurant and chef categories in all – including Best New Restaurant and Outstanding Restaurant. The group was selected from more than 20,000 online entries.
The Honey Paw in Portland is a semifinalist in the Best New Restaurant category, which is given to a restaurant opened in 2015 that “already displays excellence … and is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.”
The 2015 James Beard Awards, hosted by Alton Brown, will be held at Lyric Opera of Chicago on Monday, May 4. Carla Hall will host our Book, Broadcast, and Journalism Awards Dinner, taking place at New York City's Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers on Friday, April 24. Tickets to the main gala go on sale April 1, while BBJ ceremony tickets are now available online.
Announcing the Nominees for the 2015 James Beard Foundation Awards, Presented by Lexus
Best Chef: Northeast
Karen Akunowicz, Myers + Chang, Boston
Barry Maiden, Hungry Mother, Cambridge, MA
Masa Miyake, Miyake, Portland, ME
Cassie Piuma, Sarma, Somerville, MA
Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley, Eventide Oyster Co., Portland, ME
By Peggy Grodinsky, Food Editor
Law and academia lost out to oysters and fine dining for the two chefs and part-owners of Hugo's, Eventide and soon, Honey Paw.
Savvy restaurant-going Mainers could not have been surprised that Mike Wiley and Andrew Taylor were nominated for a James Beard award as Best Chefs: Northeast this year. If anything, we wondered what took the Beard Foundation so long. In partnership with general manager Arlin Smith, the pair owns Portland’s beloved Eventide Oyster Company and the adjacent Hugo’s restaurant on Middle Street. As locals who have waited for a coveted seat know all too well, even in the dead of winter, even on a Sunday night, even at an odd, sleepy hour of the afternoon, Eventide will be jumping. Then there’s Hugo’s (previously owned by Rob Evans), where the space and service are simultaneously posh and relaxed, the cooking intricate, elegant and assured. Hugo’s, an admiring chef friend of mine said after a recent meal, “is the real deal.” Both restaurants regularly make national and regional Best of and Where to Eat lists. And within the next few weeks, Wiley, Taylor and Smith plan to open the noodle-focused Honey Paw in a contiguous space.
By Katy Kelleher
Cauliflower foam. Ichthyic spinal fluid. Kimchi puree. Even for those of us who are apt to drop the phrase “sous vide” into casual conversation, these elements sound mildly daunting. But that has always been a part of the program at Hugo’s. The Portland institution has been pushing diners into new culinary waters for 25 years. Only now, following a renovation and a menu revamp, they’re doing it a little more gently. No more blind tasting menus here—just shockingly good food, composed right in front of your eyes.
By Sarah Karnasiewicz
Indeed, it seems the most successful practitioners of the new New England cuisine are slavish neither to trends nor tradition, but blend the imaginative approach of the artist with the work-hard, work-smart attitude of the yeoman. For Mike Wiley, co-chef and co-owner of Hugo's and Eventide Oyster Co. in the Old Port of Portland, Maine, that means gathering black locust blossoms to serve with crudo in June, sea beans in late summer, and then "putting your nose to the grindstone, preserving the hell out of the bounty of summer and resigning yourself to falling in love with celery and parsnips for a while."