On Wednesday morning, the James Beard Foundation released its semifinalists — the so-called “long list” — and Philadelphia-area restaurants, bars, chefs, and beverage professionals nabbed 17 nominations, up from the 13 semifinalists named in 2020.
Considered among the most prestigious restaurant industry awards, the James Beard Awards have been on a hiatus since 2020 after concerns regarding racial equity and nominees’ behavior, all while COVID-19 rocked the country’s restaurant industry with nationwide shutdowns and closures. Since that time, the foundation has instituted changes it hopes will right those issues, including a “demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, environmental sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive.”
Such efforts included rethinking volunteer committees and subcommittees, made up of industry professionals, as the foundation worked with an outside social-justice agency to overhaul policies and procedures to remove systemic bias, increase the diversity of the pool of candidates, and maintain relevance. (Disclosure: Some current Inquirer staff members have served on or are part of the James Beard Awards voting body.)
The awards recognize work done during the previous calendar year, but there were no awards in 2021. As previously reported in August 2020, the foundation reasoned that “any intent to hold a ceremony in 2021 based on 2020 work would be unfair and misguided, taking into account the unprecedented hardships which restaurants and potential nominees faced this year.” The 2021 ceremony was “a celebration of the independent restaurant community who have shown leadership during this crisis and honoring those who have made a significant impact on the industry and in their communities.”
This year’s notable Philadelphia nominees include Ellen Yin, of High Street Hospitality Group (Fork, a.kitchen + bar, High Street) for outstanding restaurateur and Friday Saturday Sunday for outstanding restaurant. Amanda Shulman of Her Place Supper Club has been nominated in the emerging chef category, the new name for the former rising star award but now with no required age limit. CookNSolo’s Laser Wolf is nominated for a best new restaurant award, which this year includes both 2020 and 2021 openings. For outstanding pastry chef, Angela Cicala(Cicala at the Divine Lorraine) is recognized for her efforts, while Rhonda Saltzman and Mercedes Brooks of Second Daughter Baking Co. got nods for outstanding baker. Though no Philly names were on the list for outstanding hospitality, recognizing ”a restaurant that demonstrates consistent and excellent hospitality and service to its dining community, while also making efforts to provide a sustainable work culture,” Steve and Cookie’s in Margate was recognized with a semifinalist spot. High Street Hospitality’s a.kitchen + bar received a nod for outstanding wine pogram.
The regional award for best chef: Mid-Atlantic recognizes talented chefs in Washington, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Of the 20 nominations for the region, 10 local names made the cut: Anthony Andiario (Andiario in West Chester); Adam Diltz (Elwood); Jesse Ito (Royal Izakaya); Cristina Martinez (South Philly Barbacoa); Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon (Kalaya Thai Kitchen); Antimo DiMeo (Bardea Food & Drink in Wilmington); Joey Baldino (Zeppoli in Collingswood); Bill Hoffman (The House of William & Merry in Hockessin); and Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer (Canal House Station in Milford).
Overall, Pennsylvania had a strong showing in the region, with three additional nods for Pittsburgh chefs Wei Zhu (Chengdu Gourmet), Bethany Zozula (40 North at Alphabet City), and Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski (Apteka).
The list will be whittled down by March 16, when the 2022 finalists will be announced alongside honorees for leadership, lifetime achievement, and humanitarian of the year awards.
Meanwhile, earlier this month, the James Beard Foundation awarded Corinne’s Place in Camden the America’s Classic designation, one of six annual awards that honor independently-owned restaurants that are beloved within their communities.
Previous Philadelphia James Beard Award winners include Michael Solomonov (2017 outstanding chef, 2011 best chef: Mid-Atlantic) and Camille Cogswell (2018 rising star chef) for Zahav (2019 outstanding restaurant); Stephen Starr (2017 outstanding restaurateur); Greg Vernick (2017 best chef: Mid-Atlantic, Vernick Food & Drink); Jeff Michaud (2010 best chef: Mid-Atlantic, Osteria); Jose Garces (2009 best chef: Mid-Atlantic, Amada); and Marc Vetri (2005 Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic, Vetri), among others.
For the full list of regional and national winners, visit here.