The James Beard Semi-Finalists Leading up to the Big Gala—May 6 in Chicago

On February 27, the 2019 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Award semifinalists were announced! This award recognizes restaurants and chefs across the U.S. that have demonstrated excellence in their field.

The James Beard Foundation came into being in 1986 and is named in honor of the man considered the “father of American-style gourmet cooking.” James Beard, who passed on in 1985, wrote his first cookbook, Hors D’Oeuvre and Canapes, in 1940. By 1983, that number had risen to more than 20 books that illustrated his vast culinary knowledge. He was a proponent of gourmet cuisine and a pioneer in the burgeoning television cooking show empire.

Every year, the Foundation hosts numerous events as well as over 250 dinners prepared by acclaimed chefs. It also offers scholarships for students in multiple fields including culinary, wine, food writing, and even hotel and restaurant management.

Now that we know the background, let’s take a look at the chefs and restaurants that made the grade as decided by the Restaurant and Chef Awards Committee. Winners will ultimately be decided by over 500 judges, some of which were past award winners themselves. The 21 categories include Best New Restaurant, Outstanding Baker and Pastry Chefs, Outstanding Bar Program, Outstanding Chef, Outstanding Restaurant and Restaurateur, Outstanding Service, Outstanding Wine Program and Rising Star Chefs.

419 chefs, restaurants, restaurateurs, and beverage professionals made the semi-finalist’s list. Needless to say, we’ll only cover a few of the many. All of the semifinalists can be found here.

Let’s start where the awards will be granted—the Windy City.

While 2018 was not Chicago’s best-in-class performance, 2019 is starting out much better. Last year, the city garnered only 10 nominations with only one award going out to Abe Conlon of Fat Rice, a restaurant that offers a globally inspired Macanese menu, for the best chef in the Great Lakes region. This year, 25 Chicago chefs and restaurants are in the running.

A few of the semifinalists include Sarah Grueneberg, chef at Monteverde, an Italian restaurant in Chicago’s West Loop, who is in the running for Outstanding Chef. Alisha Elenz of mfk, a seaside-focused eatery, is on the list for Rising Star Chef.

North Pond made the semifinalists for the Outstanding Restaurant award. This farm-to-table restaurant which is located within the grounds of Lincoln Park also retained its Michelin Star in 2019. Best New Restaurants went to Kyoten and Passerotto while Lost Lake found itself on the Outstanding Bar Program ballot.

For a full list of the semifinalists located in Chicago, take a look here.

Now, on to a few of the people and places that made the grade in the city that houses the James Beard Foundation—New York.

The Big Apple finds three new restaurants on the list. These include Adda Indian Canteen, Atomix, a Korean tasting-menu restaurant, and Frenchette. They also outdid Chicago with the nomination of two outstanding chefs, Maricel Presilla, chef at pan-Latin Cucharamama, and Missy Robbins of the Italian restaurant, Lilia. Three restaurants were also nominated in the Outstanding category: Balthazar, Sagami, and SriPraPhai.

For a full list of the runner’s up located in New York City, take a look here.

Heading to the West Coast, we find three new restaurants making the semifinalists in California: Angler, a sea-to-table San Francisco eatery with views of the bay; Bavel, a Middle Eastern restaurant in downtown Los Angeles’ Art District; and California-cuisine inspired Majordomo. Oakland’s in the running with Nyum Bai, a restaurant inspired by Cambodian street food that focuses on organic, locally-grown produce.

And the list goes on…

The Big Gala

On May 6, the award winners will be announced at the Civic Opera House. Known as the “Oscars of the restaurant world,” over 2,000 of the country’s top chefs, restaurateurs and culinary enthusiasts will descend on one of the culinary capitals of the world—Chicago. Tickets to the big event go on sale March 27.


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