This year sees a dramatic increase in the number of local chefs up for awards from the New York-based organization. A Beard is the culinary equivalent of an Oscar and is considered a major coup for the chef or restaurant. With the award comes increased awareness and an increase in table reservations from savvy diners seeking excellence.
Semifinalists for the 26th-annual James Beard Foundation Awards are selected from a list of more than 20,000 online entries. Of the 21 award categories, Miami chefs and restaurants are listed in five.
Bradley Kilgore has earned two spots in the running. His Wynwood restaurant, Alter, is a semifinalist in the Best New Restaurant category, which recognizes restaurants “opened in the calendar year before the award… that already displays excellence in food, beverage, and service, and that is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.” Alter goes against two dozen other noteworthy newcomers from across the nation, including chef Alon Shaya’s New Orleans restaurant Shaya and Jason Paskewitz’s the Blanchard in Chicago.
Kilgore is also a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year, presented to a chef age 30 or younger “who displays an impressive talent and who is likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come. Kilgore is up against more than two dozen other young hopefuls around the country.
A number of Miami chefs are in the running for Best Chef: South. Jose Mendin (Pubbelly), Giorgio Rapicavoli (Eating House), Michael Pirolo (Macchialina), and Deme Lomas (Niu Kitchen) have been named semifinalists, along with 16 other chefs in the region, which includes Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Puerto Rico.
This is Mendin’s fifth year as a semifinalist and Rapicavoli’s second year on the list. Lomas and Mendin were nominated for Food & Wine’s People’s Best New Chef for the Gulf Coast award in spring 2015. During Pirolo’s tenure at New York City’s Gilt, the restaurant earned two Michelin stars.
Antonio Bachour is nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef for his dazzling creations at the St. Regis Bal Harbour. The award pays tribute to “a chef or baker who prepares desserts, pastries, or breads in a restaurant and who serves as a national standard bearer of excellence.”
Two restaurateurs with Miami connections are semifinalists in the Outstanding Restaurateur category, which is awarded to a restaurateur “who sets high national standards in restaurant operations and entrepreneurship: Michael Mina (Bourbon Steak, Michael Mina 74, and Stripsteak) and Stephen Starr (the Continental, Le Zoo, Makoto, Verde at PAMM, and Steak 954).
This is the first hurdle for Miami’s semifinalists. The list of semifinalists is sent to an independent panel of more than 600 judges from across the nation — comprising regional restaurant critics, food and wine editors, culinary educators, and past Beard winners — for a vote.
The list gets whittled down Tuesday, March 15, when the Beard Foundation will announce the finalists during a news conference in San Francisco.