Melissa Kelly

Years of Participation

Melissa Kelly is the Executive Chef and proprietor of Primo a restaurant located in mid-coast Maine. She is the 2013 James Beard Foundation Award winner of the American Express Best Chef: Northeast Award. She also received this award in 1999, making her the first 2 time winner of the same award.
Chef Kelly was named one of the upcoming chefs of the 90s by Food & Wine magazine. Nation’s Restaurant News, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Chocolatier, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Travel and Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, Town & Country, and New York Magazine, among others, have all recognized her culinary talents.
In 2003, she partnered with J.W. Marriot to open a 2nd Primo location in Orlando, Florida and since then a 3rd in Tucson, Arizona both based on the same farm to table philosophy. In 2014, Primo Orlando was awarded “Best Restaurant” by TripAdvisor as well as a “Certificate of Excellence” for both 2014 and 2015. In 2019, TimeOut recognized Primo as one of the top 29 restaurants in Orlando.
The menu at Primo changes every day to insure that the highest quality ingredients are being served. Melissa and her former partner spent 18 years expanding the farm situated the on Primo’s 4.5 acres before she became sole proprietor in 2018. In 2019, she celebrated 20 years tending the old Victorian house and farm!
At peak season about 80% of the ingredients used in the Primo kitchen are sourced from the farm. The farm not only provides fresh ingredients but allows kitchen waste to be recycled; it is a unique full circle relationship that is very important to Melissa. Chef Kelly's farm fresh regional cuisine with Mediterranean accents can be summed up best in the words of one reviewer, "worth a drive from just about anywhere."