Philadelphia has two finalists for top James Beard Awards: one veteran and one newcomer.
Kalaya, chef Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon’s Thai BYOB in South Philadelphia, is one of five nominees for best new restaurant. Suntaranon, who opened at Ninth and Catharine Streets on the edge of the Italian Market in June 2019 with then-business partner My-Le Vuong, appeared as part of the Beard Foundation’s announcement on Twitter. Kalaya, named after Suntaranon’s mother, was Inquirer critic Craig LaBan’s 2019 restaurant of the year.
Marc Vetri, who owns Vetri Cucina in Center City and the new Fiorella in the Italian Market as well as a Vetri in Las Vegas, is a nominee for outstanding chef. In this category, Vetri was a nominee in 2014, 2015, and 2019, and made the semifinals in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2016. His book Mastering Pasta was a nominee in 2016. He also won the award for best chef, Mid-Atlantic, in 2005 after two years as a nominee. In 2008, Osteria was nominated for best new restaurant. Vetri, the restaurant, was nominated for outstanding restaurant in 2011 and 2012 and for outstanding service in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, and 2014.
Philadelphia also has three chefs in the hunt for best chef, Mid-Atlantic: Rich Landau (Vedge, V Street), Nicholas Elmi (Laurel, ITV, Royal Boucherie), and Cristina Martinez (South Philly Barbacoa, Casa Mexico). Landau and Elmi have been in the finals since 2014, and Martinez since 2017. Joey Baldino of Zeppoli, a semifinalist since 2012, did not make the final cut.
The announcement was carried over Twitter on what had been scheduled to be the day of the awards before the coronavirus pandemic. The date of the 2020 restaurant awards ceremony has been moved to Sept. 25. The media awards, which include nominations for journalism, books, and television, will be handed out May 27.
That there would be a 2020 awards announcement despite the upheaval in the world was never in doubt. “It was clear that those whose work in 2019 led them to be selected as a semifinalist — and perhaps ultimately a nominee or a winner — deserved the recognition they earned,” Mitchell Davis, the foundation’s chief strategy officer, wrote on the James Beard website. “Those we consulted felt the awards could also offer a glimmer of hope to an industry looking for light in a very dark time.”
The Philadelphia-area semifinalists were:
Bolete, chef Lee Chizmar and wife Erin Shea’s Fork-ish American restaurant in Bethlehem, was up for outstanding restaurant. It was a nominee in 2019, and Chizmar was a semifinalist in the best chef, Mid-Atlantic category, in 2015.
Jesse Ito (Royal Sushi) was a semifinalist for rising star chef. He was a finalist in 2019, after being a semifinalist in 2017 and 2018. He has now aged out of the category.
Cookie Till of Steve & Cookie’s of Margate, N.J., was a semifinalist for outstanding restaurateur. This was her first brush with the Beards. Also on the restaurateur list were Mike and Jeff Mastro from Steak 48, opening at Broad and Spruce Streets this year.
Tova du Plessis of Essen Bakery was a semifinalist for outstanding baker. She also made the list in 2017, 2018, and 2019.
Jean Broillet IV of Tired Hands was a semifinalist for outstanding wine, beer, spirits producer. This is his first Beard experience as a soloist. Tired Hands was a semifinalist in 2016 for outstanding bar program.
Le Caveau, the second-floor French bar at Good King Tavern in Bella Vista, opened in October 2019 and was a semifinalist for outstanding wine program.