2/17/18 | This week, the James Beard Foundation released its much-anticipated list of 2018 James Beard Award semifinalists (chef categories) — and JWU alumni are well-represented.
Every year, the list celebrates the best and brightest restaurants, chefs, front-of-house teams and food media the American culinary scene has to offer.
Some highlights from the pool of nominees:
Manresa’s David Kinch '81, '14 Hon., and Johanne Killeen ’99 Hon. of legendary Providence restaurant Al Forno, both of whom have been awarded honorary doctorates by JWU, were nominated in the Outstanding Chef category.
Outstanding Pastry Chef nominee Kelly Fields ’02 of Willa Jean was recently profiled by the New York Times’ Kim Severson for her part in helping to overhaul operations at BRG Hospitality (New Orleans), following the ouster of chef/owner John Besh after multiple allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct. Fields is working closely with newly-appointed CEO Shannon White to stabilize BRG, telling Severson: “We’re not going to weather [this] — we are going to take it and run with it.”
Momofuku director of wine special projects Jordan Salcito ’06 received a nod for “Outstanding Wine, Spirits or Beer Professional.” Salcito is the creator of Ramona, a sophisticated and kicky wine spritzer blending organic Sicilian grapes and real grapefruit juice.
Top Chef alumna Lindsay Autry ’04 received a first-time “Best Chef South” nomination for The Regional Kitchen & Public House, her chef-driven but approachable take on Southern comfort food.
“Best Chef Northeast” category highlighted a quartet of alums:
- Brian Lewis ’89 for the seasonal and globe-trotting menu at his Westport, Conn., restaurant The Cottage
- Cassie Piuma ’02 for her “dream restaurant” Sarma, focusing on Middle Eastern meze (seasonal plates)
- Two Rhode Island-based chefs, Champe Speidel ’01, ’16 Hon, of Persimmon and Benjamin Sukle ’08, of Oberlin, which was named a 2016 “Best New Restaurant” by Bon Appétit
The final Restaurant and Chef Award nominees, as well as the nominations for Book, Journalism, Broadcast Media, and Restaurant Design Awards, will be announced on Wednesday, March 14.
The 2018 Awards Gala will be held at Chicago’s Lyric Opera on Monday, May 7.
2017 Semifinalist Nominees
Johanne Killeen ’99 Hon., Al Forno, Providence, RI
David Kinch ’81, ’14 Hon, Manresa, Los Gatos, Calif. FINALIST
Outstanding Pastry Chef
Kelly Fields ’02, Willa Jean, New Orleans, La. FINALIST
Sean May ’98, Frasca Food & Wine, Denver, Colo. FINALIST
Outstanding Bar Program
Ran Duan ’09, The Baldwin Bar, Woburn, Mass.
Outstanding Wine Program
Adam Nemirow ’00 MBA, Fig, Charleston, SC FINALIST + WINNER
Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional
Jordan Salcito ’06, Ramona, NYC
Best Chef: Northeast
Brian Lewis ’89, The Cottage, Westport, Conn.
Cassie Piuma ’02, Sarma, Somerville, Mass. FINALIST
Champe Speidel ’01, ’16 Hon., Persimmon, Providence, RI
Benjamin Sukle ’08, Oberlin, Providence, RI FINALIST
Best Chef: South
Lindsay Autry ’04, The Regional Kitchen & Public House, West Palm Beach, Fla.
Vishwesh Bhatt ’99, Snackbar, Oxford, Miss. FINALIST
Kristen Essig ’98, Coquette, New Orleans, La. FINALIST
Brad Kilgore ’06, Alter, Miami, Fla. FINALIST
Best Chef: Southeast
Kevin Johnson ’96, The Grocery, Charleston, SC
Joe Kindred ’02, Kindred, Davidson, NC
Andrew Ticer ’04 and Michael Hudman ‘04, Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, Memphis, Tenn. FINALIST
Cookbook, Single Subject
“Offal Good,” Chris Cosentino ’94 (Clarkson Potter)