See the 2023 James Beard Awards semifinalists in the South

See the 2023 James Beard Awards semifinalists in the South

Each year, the James Beard Awards honor the best restaurants and chefs across America. On Wednesday, the semifinalists for the awards were announced. The South is well represented on the “long list” for the prizes often called the Oscars of the food world.

This year, each semifinalists will be tasted and ranked by a panel of three judges to determine the five finalists. Those finalists are scheduled to be announced on March 29 at a live event in Nashville. The winners of the James Beard Awards will be revealed at a gala in Chicago on June 5.

The Outstanding Chef award is the highest honor for an individual, and three Southerners were among the 20 semifinalists: Nina Compton of Compère Lapin in New Orleans, Greg Collier of Leah & Louise in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine in Miami.

The Southern restaurants vying for Outstanding Restaurant are Ariete in Miami, Brennan’s in New Orleans and The Grey in Savannah. Brennan’s was a finalist in 2022 and Mashama Bailey, the chef and co-owner of The Grey, won the Outstanding Chef award.

More:Who is Mashama Bailey? What to know about the 2022 James Beard outstanding chef winner

The Emerging Chef award honors a chef “who displays exceptional talent, character and leadership ability, and who is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.” The semifinalists from the South are Bernard Bennett of Okàn in Bluffton, South Carolina, Julio Hernandez of Maiz de la Vida in Nashville, Akino West of Rosie’s in Miami and Serigne Mbaye of Dakar NOLA, who was a finalist in 2022.

More about Maiz de la Vida:The tortillas at Maiz de la Vida food truck are out of this world. Here’s why.

The Best New Restaurant semifinalists from the South are Heff’s Burger Club in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Neng Jr.’s in Asheville, North Carolina, Pizza Grace in Birmingham, Alabama, and Sambou’s African Kitchen in Jackson, Mississippi.

The James Beard Awards honor the top chefs in 12 regions across the country. The Southeast region includes Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia, while the South region covers Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Puerto Rico.

None of the finalists for Best Chef: Southeast returned to the semifinalist list this year, although 2022 finalist Greg Collier of Leah & Louise in Charlotte made the Outstanding Chef list. In 2022, Ricky Moore of SALTBOX Seafood Joint in Durham, North Carolina, won the regional award.

More:Southern restaurants, chefs among 2022 James Beard Awards winners

Three finalists from 2022 returned to the South regional list as semifinalists: Blake Aguillard and Trey Smith of Saint-Germain in New Orleans, Timothy Hontzas of Johnny’s Restaurant in Homewood, Alabama, and Melissa M. Martin of Mosquito Supper Club in New Orleans. Last year Adam Evans of Automatic Seafood and Oyster in Birmingham, Alabama, won the Best Chef: South Award.

See the full list of regional semifinalists for the Southeast and South:

Best Chefs — Southeast

  • Sam Fore of Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites in Lexington, Kentucky
  • Josiah McGaughey of Vivian in Asheville, North Carolina
  • Josh Habiger of Bastion in Nashville
  • Sam Hart, Counter- in Charlotte, North Carolina 
  • Ronald Hsu of Lazy Betty in Atlanta
  • Daniel “Dano” Heinze of Vern’s in Charleston, South Carolina
  • Terry Koval of The Deer and the Dove in Decatur, Georgia
  • Ramin Mirzakhani of Laury’s Restaurant in Charleston, West Virginia
  • Dayna Lee-Márquez of Comal 864 in Greenville, South Carolina
  • Jiyeon Lee and Cody Taylor of Heirloom Market BBQ in Atlanta
  • Trevor Moran of Locust in Nashville
  • Dean Neff of Seabird in Wilmington, North Carolina
  • Keith Rhodes of Catch in Wilmington, North Carolina
  • Isaiah Screetch of Spark Community Café in Versailles, Kentucky
  • Jessica Shillato, Spotted Salamander, Columbia, South Carolina
  • Sahar Siddiqi of Chai Pani in Decatur, Georgia
  • Paul Smith of 1010 Bridge in Charleston, West Virginia
  • Stephanie Tyson of Sweet Potatoes in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
  • Deborah VanTrece of Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours in Atlanta
  • Preeti Waas of Cheeni Indian Food Emporium in Raleigh, North Carolina

More:The top 25 restaurants in Nashville in 2022

Best Chefs — South 

  • Blake Aguillard and Trey Smith of Saint-Germain in New Orleans
  • Timon Balloo of The Katherine in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Jeremy and Cindy Bearman of Oceano Kitchen in Lantana, Florida
  • Ana Castro fo Lengua Madre in New Orleans
  • Fernando, Nando, and Valerie Chang of Itamae in Miami
  • Hunter Evans of Elvie’s in Jackson, Mississippi
  • Francis Guzmán of Vianda in San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • Amarys and Jordan Herndon of Palm & Pine in New Orleans
  • Timothy Hontzas of Johnny’s Restaurant in Homewood, Alabama
  • Alex Perry and Kumi Omori of Vestige in Ocean Springs, Mississippi
  • Rick Mace of Tropical Smokehouse in West Palm Beach, Florida
  • Melissa M. Martin of Mosquito Supper Club in New Orleans
  • Pushkar Marathe of Stage in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
  • Henry Moso of Kabooki Sushi in Orlando, Florida
  • Charly Pierre of Fritai in New Orleans
  • Colleen Quarls and Liz Hollinger of Molly’s Rise and Shine in New Orleans
  • Rafael Rios of Yeyo’s El Alma de Mexico in Bentonville, Arkansas
  • Michael Stoltzfus of Coquette in New Orleans
  • Natalia Vallejo of Cocina al Fondo in San Juan, Puerto
  • Lojo Washington of Queen of Sheeba in West Palm Beach, Florida

Visit to see the complete list of semi-finalists. Chefs and restaurants from the South were also semifinalists in the following categories:

Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker: Manuel and Jesús Brazón of Caracas Bakery (Doral, Florida); Noelle Marchetti of Yolan (Nashville); Phillip Ashley Rix of Phillip Ashley Chocolates (Memphis)

Outstanding Bakery: Angelo Brocato (New Orleans); Buena Gente Cuban Bakery (Decatur, Georgia); Unforgettable Bakery & Cafe (Savannah, Georgia); and Zak the Baker (Miami)

Outstanding Wine & Beverage Program: Commander’s Palace (New Orleans); Lyla Lila (Atlanta); and Macchialina (Miami Beach, Florida)

Outstanding Bar: Cafe La Trova (Miami); Kingfisher (Durham, North Carolina); and Salud Cerveceria (Charlotte, North Carolina)

Outstanding Hospitality: Bottega (Birmingham, Alabama); Lula Drake (Columbia, South Carolina); and Ticonderoga Club (Atlanta)

Outstanding Restaurateur: Mohamed Ali Alkassar and Niven Patel of the Alpareno Restaurant Group (Miami); Aaron Hoskins, Sarah Simmons, Nicole Storey and Elie Yigo, City Grit Hospitality Group (Columbia, South Carolina); Clinton Gray, Derrick Moore and Emanuel Reed of Slim & Husky’s Pizza Beeria (Nashville); and Jimmy and Johnny Tung (Orlando, Florida)

Full disclosure: The author is a member of the James Beard restaurant and chef awards committee.