Four locals semifinalists for James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef South

By Heather McPherson for Orlando Sentinel

 

Four Central Florida chefs are among the semifinalists announced today in the James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards. Kathleen Blake of The Rusty Spoon in Orlando, Scott Hunnel of Victoria & Albert’s at Walt Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, and James and Julie Petrakis of The Ravenous Pig in Winter Park are vying for Best Chef South.

 

The James Beard Foundation Awards are the nation’s top recognition program honoring professionals in the food and beverage industries. Selected from a list of more than 20,000 online entries, the semifinalists in 21 categories represent a range of culinary talent in 10 regions across the U.S.

 

The list of semifinalist nominees has been sent to an independent panel of more than 600 judges across the country.  The panel — which comprises leading regional restaurant critics, food and wine editors, culinary educators and past James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Award winners — votes on specific award categories to determine the final five nominees in each category. The same judges then select a winner from the five nominees. The results are kept confidential until the presentation of winners May 2 at Lyric Opera of Chicago. (Full disclosure: I am a judge.)

 

Here are all 20 semifinalists in the Best Chef South category:

 

Greg Baker, The Refinery, Tampa

David Bancroft, Acre, Auburn, Ala.

Vishwesh Bhatt, Snackbar, Oxford, Miss.

Kathleen Blake, The Rusty Spoon, Orlando

Bill Briand, Fisher’s Upstairs at Orange Beach Marina, Orange Beach, Ala.

Justin Devillier, La Petite Grocery, New Orleans

Jose Enrique, Jose Enrique, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Michael Gulotta, MoPho, New Orleans

Jesse Houston, Saltine, Jackson, Miss.

Scott Hunnel, Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Lake Buena Vista

Deme Lomas, Niu Kitchen, Miami

Matthew McClure, The Hive, Bentonville, Ark.

Rob McDaniel, SpringHouse, Alexander City, Ala.

José Mendín, Pubbelly, Miami Beach

James and Julie Petrakis, The Ravenous Pig, Winter Park

Michael Pirolo, Macchialina, Miami Beach

Giorgio Rapicavoli, Eating House, Coral Gables

Slade Rushing, Brennan’s, New Orleans

Michael Stoltzfus, Coquette, New Orleans

Isaac Toups, Toups’ Meatery, New Orleans

 

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