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Two honored as Maine Lobster Chefs of the Year


Kerry Altiero, owner and chef of Cafe Miranda in Rockland, was the top choice of the judges panel.


By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Mackenzie Arrington, a Maine chef who now works in New York City, is the people's choice for Maine Lobster Chef of the Year, all-star edition.

Two hundred people cast votes at the Ocean Gateway terminal Thursday in an annual competition that is a staple of Portland's Harvest on the Harbor food and wine festival.

The sold-out event came with a couple of twists this year. First, all of the contestants had competed previously. (Arrington is the 2009 champ.)

Second, there were two winners. Kerry Altiero, chef/owner of Cafe Miranda in Rockland, was the judges' choice for Maine Lobster Chef of the Year.

In the past, a panel of judges chose the recipes for the contest, but tasting and judging were left solely to the audience.

This year, the judges tried the food as well, scoring it on a 100-point scale for originality, creativity, flavor and use of lobster. The judges were Steve Corry, chef/owner of Five Fifty Five and Petite Jacqueline in Portland; Kathleen Fleury, managing editor of Downeast magazine; and Sharon Rose of WCSH-TV.

Arrington and Altiero both won $1,000 and bragging rights for their restaurants.

"I'd rather please 200 people than three," Arrington quipped after he'd been handed a gigantic fake check to hold for photographers.

Arrington, who grew up in Boothbay Harbor and now works at The Dutch, a restaurant in New York City, made ricotta gnudi and Maine lobster with truffle, chanterelle mushrooms and chervil.

"Mackenzie's dish, that's a delicate preparation," Corry said. "It's not easy to make gnudi like that, especially for a crowd of 200. And I thought his dish showcased the delicate flavor of the lobster. There were very little other competing flavors."

Altiero won the judges' choice award with a lobster salad served on a sheet of homemade pasta, a dish that Corry said was "light and fresh."

"After being in the business for 30-plus years -- pre-food channel, when we were just kitchen slaves -- it's nice to get an award," Altiero said. "So now I can say 'award-winning chef.'"

Altiero said the big fake check would be installed in the "Elvis bathroom" at Cafe Miranda by Saturday. The real check will be split, he said, with a portion of it probably going to "buy some beer."

Thirty percent of the prize money will be donated to the Area Interfaith Outreach Food Pantry in Rockland, a favorite charity of Altiero's. The chef said he also plans to give part of the money to his assistant.

"I think in these tough economic times, when we come upon some good fortune, yeah, enjoy your good fortune, but kick some back, you know?" he said.

As for Arrington's plans for his prize money, he said, "I live in New York City, so this is going to rent."

Also competing Thursday was Melissa Bouchard, executive chef at DiMillo's on the Water in Portland, whose "Harvest Lobster" dish was "a play on lobster and corn chowder."

Mike Ringenberg, who lives in Denver, took it all in with his wife, Luann. It was their first time at the lobster competition, although they had visited Portland in the past. They have all-access passes that get them into all Harvest on the Harbor events.

Ringenberg said he voted for Arrington's dish.

"The third one was a little too spicy for me and had a kind of common taste," he said, referring to Altiero's dish. "I was looking for something extraordinary, and I thought (Arrington's) was kind of unique."

Ringenberg said he and his wife have been eating a lot of lobster since they've been here, "even in omelets in the morning."

"That's what we came for," he said.

The Ringenbergs have also gotten a taste of irony in Maine. The Lobster Chef of the Year competition is supposed to promote Maine lobster, and Harvest on the Harbor is designed to draw tourists during the shoulder season between fall and winter.

But Ringenberg said he is sad to have missed the changing of the leaves, and every lobster pound he and his wife have tried to visit has had the same sign posted on the door: Closed for the season.

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:



Chef Mackenzie Arrington, The Dutch, New York City

Serves 8


Ricotta gnudi, 8 portions

1 pound Maine lobster, claw knuckles

1 pint truffle cream sauce

4 ounces chanterelle mushrooms, roasted

8 pieces chervil

8 slices black truffle, shaved

Salt and pepper to taste


1 quart ricotta

2 eggs

2 tablespoons truffle oil

Salt to taste

Aprox. 1 quart flour


1 pound lobster, claw knuckle meat

2 pounds butter


1 quart heavy cream

3 shallots, minced

1 cup white wine

1 tablespoon truffle trim

Salt and truffle oil to taste


1. Remove the ricotta from the liquid and place into a large bowl. Whisk until all the curds are broken up and the ricotta is smooth.

2. Season heavily with salt, whisk and taste. Once you’ve reached the desired level of seasoning add truffle oil in while whisking until you can taste truffle but it is not overpowering.

3. Add in the eggs and whisk until they are fully incorporated.

4. Switch to a rubber spatula and add in a small handful of flour and fold in. You want to incorporate the flour with as minimal motion as possible not to over work the gluten. Add in flour until the mixture begins to form up and not stick to the sides of the bowl as easily.

5. Flour your work services and place the mixture onto the flour. Sprinkle with flour and work the remainder in by "chopping and folding” it with a bench scraper.

6. Once the mixture has started to bind and is still slightly tacky you are ready to go.

7. Work with small amounts at a time and keep the main mixture covered with plastic wrap so it does not dry out. First make a single size piece to test in water that is just under a boil to make sure all of the seasoning levels are correct and the mixture holds together.

8. Roll the portions out by hand in an outward motion on a floured surface to great one quarter width cylinder. Use the bench scraper or a knife to cut the "gnocchi” into 1-inch pieces. Place onto a well floured sheet tray and then sprinkle more flour over top to start the curing process. Let the gnudi "cure” for a few hours under refrigeration before use.


1. Cook your claw and knuckles in boiling water seasoned with salt and any other seasonings you wish to use. I personally enjoy fennel seed.

2. Cook for about 7 minutes.

3. Shock them in ice water and then remove them from the shell for the final preparation.


1. In a sauce pot heat a little oil and butter over medium low heat.

2. Add shallots and season with salt.

3. Once the shallots begin to break down and sweat they will become very aromatic and translucent. You do not want any color.

4. While you are doing this process have the cream in a separate pot over low heat reducing. You want to reduce the cream by 1/4 by the end of the sauce so this just gives you a bit of a jump start.

5. Deglaze the shallots with wine once they are translucent and let the wine reduce down till it is "dry.”

You will be left with very soft and aromatic shallots at this point.

6. Add the cream and finish out the reduction.

7. Once the cream has come to the desired reduction, transfer it into another pot or bain marie.

8. Season with salt and truffle oil and add in truffle trim.

9. Cover with plastic wrap and let steep for 20 mins.

10. Reserve warm if you are going to use it right away, if not cool as fast as possible and store cold.


1. Have a large pot of heavily seasoned water just under a boil.

2. Place lobster claws and knuckles into warm brown butter or drawn butter and allow them to heat through while you are preparing the rest of the dish.

3. In a warm pan add a couple drops of oil and place your chanterelle mushrooms in. Once they start to get a little color on one side and start to release liquid flip them. Once the mushrooms are tender season with salt and toss a knob of butter into the pan, toss the mushrooms or baste them with the butter. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place them into the base of the bowl.

4. Drop your gnudi into the bubbling water for about 45 seconds or until they are "dancing” on the top of the water.

5. Use a spider or slotted spoon to transfer the gnudi into a pan with about 2 ounces of your sauce.

6. In a circular motion move the gnudi around in the pan to cover them but do not break them. This will also help thicken the sauce.

7. Remove the lobster from the butter with a slotted spoon and season with a sprinkle of sea salt.

8. Gently place your gnudi around the mushrooms in the bowl and reserve the sauce in the pan.

9. Place the lobster knuckle meat with the gnudi but try not to smash your hard work.

10. Spoon out the remainder of the sauce over the gnudi, lobster meat and mushrooms.

11. Finish by placing the claw meat and shaved truffle on top. Garnish with a nice piece or two of chervil.

12. Serve and smile.


Chef Kerry Altiero, Cafe Miranda, Rockland

Serves two as an entree


8 ounces (after cooking) picked Maine lobster

12 ounces fresh pasta

Large Heirloom tomato (14-plus ounces)

1 ear sweet corn on the cob

1/2 bunch fresh curly or flat parsley

1/4 teaspoon garlic

3-plus ounces extra virgin olive oil

Coarse salt to taste

Cracked pepper to taste

1/2 lemon

4 quarts water



1. Steam, pick and cube lobster meat and chill; or purchase pre-cooked and picked lobster meat.


1. Shuck and clean corn and shave kernels off cob.

2. Core tomato, dice to a medium size. Place diced tomatoes in bowl with a sprinkle of salt. Let sit for 10-15 minutes to draw out juice. Reserve juice and tomatoes.

3. Wash and coarsely chop parsley.

4. Mince garlic.

5. Juice lemon.


Bring 4 quarts of water, lightly salted to boil.

In large mixing bowl mix all ingredients except: Pasta, corn and tomatoes.

Heat a heavy skillet to medium-high heat. Add corn and stir until lightly toasted and color intensifies. Once color has changed, remove skillet from heat and add tomatoes and reserved juice.

Add pasta to boiling water. Cook to al dente as per directed on pasta container.

While pasta is cooking, add corn and tomato mixture to remaining ingredients in large mixing bowl.

After pasta has fully cooked, drain (do not rinse).

Add pasta to remaining ingredients in large mixing bowl.

Let stand for 5 minutes. This allows the heat of the pasta, corn and tomatoes to gently warm remaining ingredients without cooking or breaking down remaining ingredients.

Toss and turn out onto nice serving platter or plate individually.

click image to enlarge

Kerry Altiero, chef/owner at the Cafe Miranda in Rockland, was the judges’ choice for Maine Lobster Chef of the Year on Thursday at the Harvest on the Harbor festival.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer