The James Beard Foundation on Wednesday released its long list of semifinalists for its annual Restaurant and Chef Awards, with new categories following an alignment of regions last September.
As a result, communities not previously acknowledged much in the awards got some recognition, notably Salt Lake City, Utah, which hadn’t made it onto the list of more than 400 chefs, restaurants, restaurateurs and beverage professionals since 2016.
Salt Lake City is part of a new Mountain region comprised of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.
Other realignments include the creation of three statewide categories for California, Texas and New York. New York City, previously its own region, with the rest of the state lumped in with New England as the Northeast region, continues to dominate the semifinalist list in the state. The removal of Texas from the Southwest has allowed for more restaurants in Oklahoma to be recognized.
The newly realigned Northwest & Pacific, comprised of Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington, remains mostly a battleground between Seattle and Portland, although Hawaii has three semifinalists this year in the regional category.
Starting with the 2019 awards, the foundation also strived for more diversity among its judge panels, comprised of members of the food and beverage media, culinary educators and past Beard Award winners. At the time it said the number of people of color on the panels was increased by 14%, and 5% more women were judges.
That’s reflected a bit by added diversity among semifinalists, including in the Outstanding Restaurant category, which is often a sort of lifetime achievement award for long-established restaurants. Included on the list this year is La Morada, a Oaxacan restaurant in the New York City borough of The Bronx — which has rarely, if ever, been acknowledge by the foundation in the past — and Sushi Den in Denver.
Voting is now underway by more than 600 judges, who will select five or six finalists in each category. The nominees will be announced on Wednesday, March 25 at The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.
Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]
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