World’s Best Lobster Roll
Final Round Judges

Photograph by Allagash Brewing

At this year’s Down East Lobster Roll Festival 250 VIP ticket holders will determine which chefs advance to the final round in the World’s Best Lobster Roll Competition. Once they’ve narrowed it down, this panel of  esteemed, expert, and lucky pros will pick a winner.

Sonny Beal

Sonny Beal makes his home on Beals Island, Maine with his wife and two boys. Lobstering for Sonny began when he was 12 years old on a small outboard. Sonny has also spent time on the water working a gill netter, dragging for scallops and quahogs; he has even done some seining as well. Sonny earned a degree from Eastern Maine Technical College, which he used at an electronics firm in Gloucester, MA for a short time before returning to lobstering. Sonny now works from his 40’ Young Brothers lobster boat. Additionally, Sonny serves as the Vice Chairman of the Beal-Jonesport Co-Op and on the Board of Directors for the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative.

John Leavitt

A born and raised New Englander, John Leavitt grew up eating seafood of all varieties, but the lobster roll has always remained the king of his court. Though his life and career has taken him from the politics of Washington D.C, to the bright lights of Hollywood, he always knew his path would ultimately lead back to the seashores of New England. John now works for Portland, Maine’s very own Ready Seafood Company, where he provides, distributes, and sells lobster to some of the finest lobster roll purveyors in the world. His dealings have led him across the country, eating rolls of all varieties and refining his palate beyond compare. When not obsessing over lobster rolls or writing bios in the third person, John loves all activities ocean related, especially standing on the beach with a surfboard (looking cool) pretending he just went surfing.

Scott DeSimon

Scott DeSimon is an editor and writer who has been professionally obsessed with food and drink for almost 20 years. He has killed chickens for GQ, written about losing his sense of taste for Food & Wine, and served as Deputy Editor of Bon Appetit for five years, where he produced video, wrote features, and generally spent too much time hanging around the test kitchen. He grew up in Cumberland Center, Maine (before it got fancy) where he developed a taste for red hot dogs, fried Maine shrimp, and Casco Bay lobster. He is somewhat embarrassed to say that he didn’t eat a real lobster roll until he was in his 20s, preferring crabmeat rolls, because, let’s face it, they’re just better. He spends most of his time in Brooklyn, NY with with wife and two sons.

Rebecca Charles

When Rebecca Charles opened Pearl Oyster Bar in 1997, there wasn’t a lobster roll to be found in Manhattan — or, for that matter, anywhere more than a mile from the beach! A native New Yorker, Rebecca started her career in New York City in the 1970s. She spent the 1980s working in Kennebunkport, Maine earning four-star reviews as executive chef of the legendary White Barn Inn, and Café 74, a restaurant she also designed. In the late 1980s she returned to New York, spending five years at Anne Rosenzweig’s seminal restaurant, Arcadia, then moving Noho’s Cascabel, owned by Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, to be to executive chef in 1994. In 2016, Rebecca began to realize a decades-long dream of opening a restaurant in Maine. Spat Oyster Cellar opened on a limited basis in October; only to be devastated by a flood in February 2017. Currently, she is rebuilding Spat and preparing the large patio to open on July 4th weekend. A separate dining room, Pearl Kennebunk, is scheduled to open later this summer. She is also the author of “Lobster Rolls & Blueberry Pie: Stories and Recipes from Summers on the Coast of Maine,” and has appeared extensively on television, from the Today Show and Regis & Kelly to Martha Stewart.

Michael Stern

Michael Stern is co-creator of Roadfood.com and, with Jane Stern, has written over 40 books about American food and popular culture, including best-sellers Elvis World and The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste. The Sterns’ 17-year “Roadfood” column in Gourmet magazine won three James Beard journalism awards. Michael rides horses at his home in South Carolina and continues to travel the country looking for great things to eat.

Get your tickets and join us on July 8!


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