The New York-based James Beard Foundation named eight South Florida chefs and restaurants as 2018 semifinalists in its annual awards program that is widely considered to be the Oscars of the food world. That number is a marked uptick from last year, when the Miami area claimed five semifinalists (and no finalists or winners).
Four of this year’s Miami semifinalists are competing in national James Beard Foundation Award categories
–Janine Booth of Stiltsville Fish Bar in Miami Beach is nominated for Rising Star Chef, open to chefs 30 and younger. Booth is the only chef from Florida among the category’s 27 semifinalists; it is her first nomination.
–Zak Stern of Zak the Baker in Miami is nominated for Outstanding Baker. This is his second year on the list. Stern is the only chef from Florida among the category’s 20 semifinalists.
–Palme d’Or at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables is nominated for Outstanding Service. It is the only Florida restaurant in the category that includes Zuni Cafe in San Francisco and Sepia in Chicago.
–The Forge in Miami Beach is nominated for Outstanding Wine Program. It is The Forge’s first nomination. It is the only Florida restaurant in the category; Bern’s Steak House in Tampa won the award in 2016.
Four of this year’s South Florida semifinalists are nominated in the regional Best Chef: South category
–Niven Patel of Ghee Kitchen in Miami. This is his first time on the list.
–Brad Kilgore of Alter in Miami. Kilgore was a Rising Star Chef semifinalist in 2017 and 2016.
–Lindsay Autry of The Regional Kitchen & Public House in West Palm Beach. This is her first time on the list.
–Clay Conley of Buccan in Palm Beach. This is his fourth time on the list.
Additional Florida semifinalists
–Lauren Macellaro of the Reading Room in Saint Petersburg (Best Chef: South). This is her first time on the list.
–Richard Gonzmart of Columbia Restaurant Group in Tampa (Outstanding Restaurateur). This is his third time on the list.
Two chefs in Puerto Rico also are in the running for Best Chef: South
–Jose Enrique of Jose Enrique in San Juan. This is his sixth time on the list. He moved on to the finals in 2015 and 2017.
–Gabriel Hernandez of Verde Mesa in San Juan. This is his first time on the list.