PORTLAND, Maine – Raw lobster tartar over creme frais with a fried quail egg. Miso-butter basted lobster with sunchoke puree, roasted maitake mushroom ragout and lily bulb. Lobster sashimi ballotine with chevre hazelnut stuffing and roasted beet emulsion.
Those are three of the elaborate dishes that helped take four chefs to this week’s lobster chef world series championship, where they’ll create and prepare food with Maine lobster meat, fancy names and sophisticated ingredients.
Three of the chefs earned a trip to Maine by winning lobster competitions in Asia, Europe and Boston. The fourth chef, who works at Portland restaurants, will serve as the host and hold the final cooking competition Wednesday at his home in Scarborough.
The chefs spent Monday in Stonington hauling lobster traps with local fishermen. On Tuesday, they visited the Shucks Maine Lobster processing plant in Richmond followed by dinner in Portland. Shucks is sponsoring the event.
Organizers hope the competition will help showcase Maine’s lobster industry.
“The purpose is to introduce Maine lobster to chefs around the world and bring them to Maine to teach them about the industry,” said Caitlin Hathaway, who’s in charge of marketing at Shucks. “Basically, it’s an educational and fun hands-on experience of learning about Maine and where lobster comes from and how it’s processed and how it’s handled and how it gets to the chef and the consumer.”
For the contest, Hathaway held a competition last fall at the Asian Seafood Expo in Hong Kong with five chefs from Hong Kong. In March, another competition was held at the International Boston Seafood Show in Boston with four chefs. In April, Hathaway and a travel writer met with chefs in Rome; Paris; Dresden, Germany; and Segovia, Spain, to taste their lobster concoctions.
The winners of those competitions were Gerd Kastenmeier, a chef in Dresden; Chris Gould, of Boston; and Patrick Goubier, a chef in Hong Kong. Steve Corry, a chef at Portland’s Five-Five-Five and Petite Jacqueline restaurants, is the host and fourth competitor in the final cook-off.
The judges are Luke Holden and Ben Conniff, co-owners of the New York-based Luke’s Lobster chain of lobster roll eateries; travel writer Dez Bartelt; and Linda Greenlaw, the Maine swordfish skipper who survived the nor’easter that was the basis for the book “The Perfect Storm” and was portrayed by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in the Hollywood film.
The world series of lobster is similar to the Maine Lobster Promotion Council‘s annual Maine Lobster Chef of the Year competition except it includes restaurant chefs from around the world, not just Maine.
The dishes they prepare won’t be boiled whole lobster, lobster rolls or other lobster dishes you might find at a typical Maine lobster pound.
In winning the European title, for instance, Kastenmeier prepared a dish featuring raw lobster Tartar over creme frais with a fried quail egg, lobster tail sausage over champagne kraut and scrambled egg with lobster knuckles topped with caviar.
The winner receives $5,000 and a lobster buoy that’s painted gold.