Written by Veronica Brezina
Reported by Courtney Smith
Photos by Courtney Smith
The 2014 James Beard Foundation announced at East End Market on Feb. 19, its list of Restaurant and Chef Award Semifinalists. The James Beard Foundation Awards are the culinary industry’s most prestigious recognition program. It was hosted by Visit Orlando and the event marked the first time the semifinalists were announced at a live event.
According to the press release, “Selected from a list of over 38,000 online entries, the prestigious group of semifinalists in 20 categories represents a wide range of culinary talent, from exceptional chefs and dining destinations in 10 different regions across the U.S., to the nation’s top wine and spirits professionals, best new restaurants and rising star chefs.”
“All J.B.F. Award winners receive a certificate and a medallion engraved with the James Beard Foundation Awards insignia. There are no cash prizes.”
George Aguel, president and CEO of Visit Orlando, spoke about the awards and past winners in Central Florida.
“Last year, James Beard named six Orlando chefs and 70 finalists in the best chefs South category,” Aguel said.
He listed several finalists from last year such as Chefs Kathleen Blake of The Rusty Spoon in Orlando, Scott Hunnel of Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Brandon McGlamery of Luma on Park in Winter Park, James and Julie Petrakis of the The Ravenous Pig in Winter Park and Hari Pulapaka of Cress in DeLand.
“We’re fortunate to have such a dedicated and passionate community of chefs…I want to thank you dedicated chefs for helping Orlando gain national recognition,” Aguel said.
Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation, and Norman Van Aken, James Beard Award winner and Who’s Who recipient, also spoke during the conference.
The semifinalist’s awards for the best chef in the South once again, included Winter Park’s own restaurant The Ravenous Pig awarded to Chef James and Chef Julie Petrakis along with others representing Florida.
The semifinalists for the best chef in the South category listed by chef, restaurant and location are the following: Greg Baker, The Refinery, Tampa, Fla; Vishwesh Bhatt, Snackbar, Oxford, Miss.; Justin Devillier, La Petite Grocery, New Orleans; Derek Emerson, Walker’s Drive-In, Jackson, Miss.; José Enrique, San Juan, Puerto Rico; Justin Girouard, The French Press, Lafayette, La.; Chad Johnson, SideBern’s, Tampa, Fla.; Matthew McClure, The Hive, Bentonville, Ark.; Rob McDaniel, SpringHouse, Alexander City, Ala.; Jose Mendin, Pubbelly, Miami Beach, Fla.; James and Julie Petrakis, The Ravenous Pig, Winter Park, Fla.; Steve Phelps, Indigenous, Sarasota, Fla; Ryan Prewitt, Pêche Seafood Grill, New Orleans; Hari Pulapaka, Cress, DeLand, Fla.; Horacio Rivadero, The District Miami; Henry Salgado, Spanish River Grill, New Smyrna Beach, Fla; Alon Shaya, Domenica, New Orleans; Michael Stoltzfus, Coquette, New Orleans; Isaac Toups, Toups’ Meatery, New Orleans; Sue Zemanick, Gautreau’s, New Orleans.
For other categories such as outstanding restaurant, Tampa’s notorious Bern’s Steak House was named and for the outstanding wine, spirits or beer professional, Joey Redner of Cigar City Brewing in Tampa made the list.
The semifinalists for the best new restaurant category listed by name and location are the following: The 404 Kitchen, Nashville; Aragona, Seattle; Ardent, Milwaukee; Asta, Boston; Bar Sajor, Seattle; Betony, N.Y.C.; Brindille, Chicago; Carbone, N.Y.C.; Casa Rubia, Dallas; The Cavalier, San Francisco; Chi Spacca, Los Angeles; Connie and Ted’s, West Hollywood, Calif.; Coqueta, San Francisco; The Elm, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Estela, N.Y.C; Fish & Game, Hudson, N.Y.; Izanami at Ten Thousand Waves, Santa Fe, N.M.; Laurel, Philadelphia; MilkWood, Louisville, Ky.; MW, Honolulu; Nico Osteria, Chicago; Pêche, New Orleans; Pinewood Social, Nashville; Ribelle, Brookline, Mass.; Rose’s Luxury, Washington, D.C.; Serpico, Philadelphia; Tosca Café, San Francisco; Trois Café, Los Angeles; Uncle Boons, N.Y.C; Virtù, Scottsdale, Ariz.
This year’s full list of semifinalist can be found online at jamesbeard.org/awards.
The theme for the 2014 awards was also announced at the conference: “Sounds of the City,” exploring the relationship between the ways which the culinary community is inspired by music and the artists who create it.
“On March 18, the foundation will announce the final nominees for all award categories during a press brunch hosted by One Off Hospitality Group at The Publican in Chicago. The nominations will also be live via the foundation’s Twitter feed (twitter.com/beardfoundation),” according to the press release.
During the press conference at East End Market, vendors offered food and refreshments to the media. Skyebird Juice bar and Experimental Kitchen served up their Tropical Kale juice that has kale, pineapple, cucumber and ginger. They also had their Complete Protein drink containing hemp spirulia, flax, chia, vanilla bean, banana, sunflower milk and maple. The Olde Hearth Company had the sweets-chocolate and plain croissants and Danishes. Houndstooth Sauce Company brought brisket biscuits with pimento cheese and white BBQ sauce to the table. Later, the brunch offered smoked Salmon and caper aioli, chicken salad on cheddar biscuits, vegetarian strata, cranberry and orange scones, and brunch styled beets.
About the Author – Veronica Brezina
Hello foodies! My name is Veronica Brezina, a journalism student at the University of Central Florida. Currently, I write for the Central Florida Future, UCF’s student-run newspaper, where I’m a contributor and a food blogger for the blog called Orlando’s Tastebuds. I also write for hypeorlando in my blog, Crave Central, and a contributor for Financial Ops magazine. In the past, I was a visual team member and writer for UCF’s magazine Centric in fall 2013.
I grew up in Tampa and spent a lot of time traveling to places in and out of the U.S. to experience different cultures, from eating Guatemalan cuisines in my grandmother’s kitchen to American dishes in my parent’s home. I know from first-hand experience, food is a huge part of everyone’s culture. Here in Central Florida, it’s a huge melting pot that gives me a hunger for writing and an appetite for adventure.