Milo brewery chef among semifinalists for 2024 James Beard Awards

A chef known for the Native American cuisine he brings to a rural Maine brewery is among the semifinalists for the James Beard Foundation’s 2024 awards.

Joe Robbins, a member of the Penobscot Nation, is the chef at Bissell Brothers Three Rivers in the Piscataquis County town of Milo. He has brought succotash and bison tacos, among other creations, to the brewery along with comfort food including burgers and barbecue.

He is a first-time nominee in the foundation’s Emerging Chef category.

File photo courtesy of Bissell Brothers
JAMES BEARD AWARDS SEMIFINALIST — Chef Joe Robbins of Bissell Brothers Three Rivers in Milo. Robbins is among the semifinalists for the James Beard Foundation’s 2024 awards.

The full list of semifinalists, released Jan. 24, includes 10 chefs and eateries in Maine. The James Beard Awards are among the highest accolades in the country’s culinary and food media industries.

Robbins is a newcomer to a list of semifinalists that typically includes chefs and restaurants in southern Maine. In January of last year, The Quarry, a fine dining restaurant in the Piscataquis County town of Monson, was nominated for Outstanding Hospitality and won.

Chef Marilou “Lulu” Ranta’s restaurant was the only one of 10 Maine semifinalists to advance to the finals.

The award was not only an honor for Ranta, but the entire town, which was buzzing in the days after she brought it home. One local said that it “puts us on the map a little more,” and others hoped it would bring more visitors to hike Borestone Mountain and support businesses.

Also among this year’s semifinalists is the Alna Store, in the Lincoln County town of Alna, for Best New Restaurant. 

Brian Haskins and Jasper Ludwig, who are husband and wife, bought the business in May 2022, they told the Lincoln County News. They had plans to offer Mexican-inspired menu items like the previous owners but also their own culinary creations at the reimagined convenience store, they said.

The James Beard Foundation named Cara Stadler and Cecile Stadler as semifinalists for Best Restaurateur. They are the mother-daughter team behind BaoBao Dumpling House in Portland, Tao Yuan Restaurant in Brunswick and ZaoZe Cafe & Market in Brunswick. 

Four Portland chefs are semifinalists for Best Chef in the Northeast: Celia Bruns of Artemisia Cafe, Ian Driscoll of Bar Futo, Jake Stevens of Leeward and Valerie Goldman of The Honey Paw.

Zu Bakery in Portland is a semifinalist in the Outstanding Bakery category.

Atsuko Fujimoto of Norimoto Bakery in Portland is a semifinalist in the Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker category.

Woodford Food & Beverage in Portland is a semifinalist in the Outstanding Hospitality category.

Finalists will be announced on April 3. Winners will be announced at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards ceremony on June 10 in Chicago.

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