Semifinalists for the James Beard Award were announced on Wednesday—and for the first time since 2020, Tampa Bay is nowhere to be seen.
The Bay has experienced a nomination drought since Edison Food+Drink Lab's Jeannie Pierola and The Library's Rachel Bennett were among semifinalists in 2019. The Bay area hasn't nabbed a Beard award proper since Bern’s Steak House won Outstanding Wine Program in 2016.
One of the most prestigious culinary awards in the nation, the James Beard Foundation’s annual awards recognizes chefs and restaurants in other categories such as Outstanding Restaurateur, Outstanding Chef and Best New Restaurant.
The Tampa Bay Times noted that the Beard awards received public backlash in the past years and canceled in 2020 and 2021 as it received “allegations of misbehavior against some of its nominated chefs and the realization that ‘no Black people had won in any of the 23 categories on the ballot.'"
Since the 1990 creation of the awards honoring the American culinary scene, the winners have been mostly white and male, just like James Beard, who was probably America's first celebrity chef.
Additionally, Floridians have expressed discontent due to a lack of representation in the winning pool as almost all Florida nominees never make it past that stage.
Florida cooks have never won Best Chef in the South and have received only two nominations in national categories, with Hedy Goldsmith for Best Pastry Chef in 2012 and 2013.
Since Miami’s Michael Schwartz regional victory in 2010, no other Florida Chef has won a James Beard Award.
This year, Florida is nominated in five categories:
- Outstanding Restaurateur Jason and Sue Chin, Good Salt Restaurant Group, Orlando
- Best New Restaurant Zitz Sum, Coral Gables
- Outstanding Pastry Chef Antonio Bachour, Bachour, Coral Gables and Doral; and Rabii Saber, Four Seasons, Orlando
- Outstanding Baker Evette Rahman, Sister Honey's, Orlando
- Best Chef in the South Michael Beltran, Ariete, Coconut Grove; Clay Conley, Buccan, Palm Beach; Henry Moso, Kabooki Sushi, Orlando; and Niven Patel, Ghee Indian Kitchen, Kendall