Several South Florida chefs may have to trade in their white coats for ball gowns and tuxedos.
The James Beard Foundation awards, considered the Oscars of the food world, have named nine chefs and restaurants with South Florida ties as semifinalists for the prestigious awards.
Chefs Brad Kilgore (of the restaurants Alter, Brava, Kaido), Niven Patel (Ghee Indian Kitchen), Lindsay Autry (The Regional Kitchen and Public House in West Palm Beach) and Clay Conley (Buccan, Imoto, Grato in Palm Beach) have been long-listed for the highest honor, Best Chef: South.
The category also includes semifinalists from Puerto Rico, Jose Enrique from his namesake restaurant in San Juan and Maria Mercedes Grubb of Gallo Negro.
Valerie and Nando Chang, who along with their father, Fernando, run the Peruvian Nikkei and sushi restaurant Itamae in the St. Roch Market, have been nominated for Rising Star Chef of the Year.
Naomi Harris, who started Madruga Bakery in Coral Gables two years ago, has been nominated for Outstanding Baker.
And the restaurant at The Surf Club, the Surfside endeavor by one of America’s great chefs, Thomas Keller, has been nominated for Best New Restaurant in the country. The San Juan restaurant Vianda is also up for the award.
Norman Van Aken, a past James Beard award winner who owns the Miami restaurant Three in Wynwood, had his Orlando restaurant in Orlando, Norman’s, nominated for Outstanding Restaurant.
The James Beard Foundation will narrow its choices to finalists on March 27, and winners will be announced at an annual black-tie gala May 6 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Kilgore, Patel, Autry and Conleyall were nominated as semifinalists last year, and this is Conley’s fifth nomination. Kilgore was named a finalist last year and attended the gala.
The fresh-faced honorees were the stars Wednesday.
The Chang siblings for years worked at their father’s side at a kosher sushi restaurant in Surfside. They eventually started a pop-up and later opened their current spot inside a food hall, where they focus on the Japanese-Peruvian tradition. Their work has been hailed from the Miami Herald to the New York Times.
Harris, whose father Larry founded the Pollo Tropical chain in Miami, focused her two-year old bakery on making everything from scratch, down to milling her own flour. It has become a favorite of locals, for fresh croissants, breads and quiches.