James Beard Foundation Awards season began today with the annual release of the list of semifinalists for the organization’s Restaurant and Chef Awards.
The roster of 427 names of restaurants, restaurateurs, chefs, bakers and beverage professionals contains many of the same names as last year’s — 236, to be exact.
That’s par for the course for the awards, now in their 26th year. Since the foundation started releasing the list in 2009, after it was leaked to the press in 2008, a bit more than half of the names have been repeated from one year to the next.
The category with the biggest turnover — except for best new restaurant, which is all new — is the Rising Star Chef of the Year, which goes to a chef aged 30 or younger. Just eight of the 27 semifinalists were on the list last year: Tanya Baker of Boarding House in Chicago; Jay Blackinton of Hogstone Wood Oven on Orcas Island, Wash.; Alex Bois of High Street on Market in Philadelphia; Elise Kornack of Take Root in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Garrett Lipar of Marais in Grosse Pointe, Mich.; Grae Nonas of Olamaie in Austin, Texas; Beau Schooler of The Rookery in Juneau, Alaska; and Cara Stadler of Tao Yuan in Brunswick, Maine.
The other 20 categories contain 20 names each, culled from more than 20,000 entries submitted online. The list will be further winnowed by a panel of more than 600 judges — comprised of past winners, food and beverage journalists and culinary educators — who will select five names in each category. Those finalists will be announced on March 15 at the Presidio Officers’ Club in San Francisco.
The winners will be announced at a gala ceremony May 2 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Among the semifinalists, the category with the fewest newcomers was Best Chef in the Southwest, with just four new entries: Teiichi Sukarai of Tei-An in Dallas, Steve McHugh of Cured in San Antonio, Manabu Horiuchi from Kata Robata in Houston and the team of Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan of The Pass in Houston.
The Pass is also a semifinalist in the Outstanding Service category.
Five of the new semifinalists are chefs at restaurants that also are on the long list for Best New Restaurant. They are Mike Randolph of Público in University City, Mo.; Bradley Kilgore of Alter in Miami; Laura Sawicki of Launderette in Austin, Texas; Susan Regis of Shepard in Cambridge, Mass.; and Ryan Smith of Staplehouse in Atlanta.
See the full list of semifinalists on the James Beard Foundation website.
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