Winning a James Beard Award is like winning an Oscar in the culinary world. The James Beard Awards were established in 1990 to recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields and the honor the diversity in America's food and beverage industries. Yesterday, the James Beard Foundation announced the semifinalist for this year's culinary awards, and unsurprisingly New Orleans had a large list of local names on the list. . The list will be narrowed to finalists next month, on March 13, and winners will be named on May 7 at a gala in Chicago. See the complete national list of nominees here.
Best New Restaurant
Saffron Nola was launched by the Vilkhu family five years ago in Gretna and initially operated as a Friday night-only dinner restaurant that occasionally hosted special set menu dinners and Sunday brunch. Saffron headed across the river and opened up a brick-and-mortar store on Magazine Street in early August. The Vilkhu family is serving up Indian cuisine and cocktails with their own unique twist. The menu includes an assortment of naan and small plates.
Outstanding Bar Program
Cure gets its third consecutive nomination for this national award. The lounge, located on Freret Street, was an old firehouse that is now a sophisticated spot slinging out innovative cocktails and classic favorites.
Louisiana native Donald Linke is in the running for the group’s Outstanding Chef award for the fifth year straight. The local favorite and his restaurant group have won numerous James Beard Awards in the past, and in 2014 his seafood restaurant, Peche, won the national award for Best New Restaurant. Read more about his flagship restaurant, Herbsaint, here.
Outstanding Pastry Chef
Kelly Fields, pastry chef and partner in Willa Jean café and bakery, is back for the fourth year as a nominee for this national award. Willa Jean is located in the up and coming South Market District. Read more here.
For the fifth year, JoAnn Clevenger of Upperline Restaurant is up for Outstanding Restaurateur, an award the James Beard Foundations gives to “a working restaurateur who sets high national standards in restaurant operations and entrepreneurship.” Upperline is an Uptown restaurant serving modern, elevated Creole dinners in an 1877 townhouse.
Brigtsen’s Restaurant was again nominated this year for the Outstanding Service award. Chef Frank Brigtsen won the group's regional best chef award in 1998. Brigtsen’s Restaurant is located in a charming Victorian cottage in Uptown New Orleans near the Riverbend and is only a few blocks away from the St. Charles street car line
Outstanding Wine Service
Bacchanal, the wine shop that morphed into a wine bar, wine garden and unique oasis in the Bywater, is nominated alongside more traditional restaurants around the country. Bacchanal is one of our favorite spots in the city to relax and drink wine.
Best Chef: South
Nina Compton of Compère Lapin
Slade Rushing of Brennan’s Restaurant
Michael Stoltzfus and Kristen Essig, the co-chefs of Coquette
Hieu Than of Kin
Martha Wiggins of Sylvain
Last year, the Best Chef: South award went to Rebecca Wilcomb of Herbsaint.The James Beard Foundation has already announced the 2018 recipients of its America’s Classics awards, and a New Orleans name made the list again this year.