Chef Sam Hayward and his Portland, Maine, restaurant, Fore Street Grill, have made a reputation not only for wood-fired cooking of local meat, seafood, game, and vegetables, but as friends of the farmer.
First, though, he had to get to know the farmers. Hayward landed in Brunswick, Maine, years after his first encounter with the Pinetree State during a summer restaurant job. In the interim years, the Ohio native had cooked in New Orleans and New York, but Maine drew him back.
With his first restaurant, 22 Lincoln, in Brunswick, he reached out to growers, put their produce front and center, and encouraged other chefs to do the same. He learned fast and built a community of foragers, cheesemakers, fishermen, and farmers. Now, said Russell Libby, executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association, Hayward’s outreach has led to “a whole group of farmers who think about what a chef wants as they’re planning their year.”
Opening Fore Street in 1996, in Portland’s Old Port District, Hayward quickly began gathering notices for dishes like his wood-oven-roasted Bangs Island mussels, and turnspit-roasted pork loin and chicken, cooked on the hearth that is the restaurant’s centerpiece. In 2002, Fore Street was named Number 16 in Gourmet magazine’s Top Fifty Restaurants of the United States. And in 2004, Hayward was named Best Chef/Northeast by the James Beard Foundation.
A member of the Chefs Collaborative, a nonprofit organization comprising chefs and producers promoting sustainable food systems, Hayward is also a contributor to the 2012 Chefs Collaborative Cookbook: Local, Sustainable, Delicious Recipes from America’s Great Chefs (The Taunton Press). In 2012, the Collaborative also gave Hayward its Sustainer award, which “recognizes a chef who has been both a great mentor and a model to the culinary community through his purchases of seasonal, sustainable ingredients and the transformation of these ingredients into delicious food.”