Rob Evans + Nancy Pugh
Chef and Co-Owners, Duckfat
Known For elevating the food scene
Located In The Old Port
“Our menu definitely represents Maine, and the seasons in Maine.”
Rob Evans and his wife Nancy Pugh moved to Portland in 2000. Prior to that they were living in California, where Rob was working in the kitchen of the revered Bay Area restaurant, The French Laundry. When they moved to Maine, the couple had next to no money and felt unsure of their next move. Rob and Nancy stopped in to talk to an acquaintance, the owner of a restaurant on Middle Street—now the site of their award-winning Portland establishment, Hugo’s. The owner was looking to sell, and before Rob and Nancy knew it, they owned a restaurant. In the decade since, Rob has won the Food & Wine Award for Best New Chef, the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Northeast, and the couple opened the popular sandwich shop Duckfat—specializing in duckfat-fried French fries—across the street.
Rob describes the Hugo’s menu as “aggressive,” but counters, “it’s rooted in New England flavors, so that keeps us grounded.” Some recent dishes on the menu include, Spice Roasted Maine Monkfish and Oxtail Pierogi with heirloom carrots, pickled kumquat, and mustard miso and Curried Parsnip Soup with curried spiced milk foam, pear butter, and shaved foie gras crostini. Rob says, “Our menu definitely represents Maine, and the seasons in Maine.” He says it was a push to do a Maine-based menu ten years ago, but now it’s a lot easier given the renewed interest in local foods and supporting local producers. “Food is on everyone’s mind,” Nancy says, “but no one’s going to the extremes we are. I think we’re really doing an unbelievable job in Maine.”