(To be clear, the list announced Tuesday was its semifinalists list. Finalists will be named on March 18.)
For Outstanding Restaurant, awarded to an American restaurant in operation for 10-plus years, Naha and Spiaggia are two of 20 nationwide semifinalists. The Outstanding Chef category is also a national award, and returning from last year’s final five is Paul Kahan of the Blackbird-Avec-Publican empire. His partner, Donnie Madia, is once again a semifinalist as Outstanding Restaurateur for their One Off Hospitality Group restaurants.
Patrick Fahy, a Blackbird alumnus when he was first nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef, is once again a semifinalist for his work at Sixteen. In Outstanding Service, Rick Bayless’ Topolobampo is once again a semifinalist in the category.
In the Best New Restaurant category, the BOKA-Bristol collaboration Balena is a semifinalist, as is Curtis Duffy’s Grace. (Next won in this category last year).
Best Chef Great Lakes encompasses chefs cooking in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. The category is almost always dominated by Chicago names, including this year, where nine semifinalists are local.
Three new Chicago chefs join the cadre of six local names returning to the category: Dave Beran of Next (a finalist for Rising Star Chef last year), Matthias Merges of Yusho, and Paul Fehribach of Big Jones.
Making a return appearance on the semifinalist list are Michael Carlson of Schwa, Stephanie Izard of Girl & The Goat, Chris Nugent of Goosefoot, Giuseppe Tentori of Boka, Paul Virant of Perennial Virant and Andrew Zimmerman of Sepia.
Rising Star Chef of the Year honors chefs ages 30 and younger. The three semifinalists from Chicago this year are Jimmy Bannos, Jr. of The Purple Pig, Matthew Kirkley of L2O and David Posey of Blackbird.
Brothers Nick and Simon Floyd, and their father Mike, founders of Munster’s Three Floyds Brewing, are semifinalists in the Outstanding Wine, Spirits & Beer Professional category. Making a return appearance this year in Outstanding Bar Program are The Aviary and The Violet Hour. Sepia is a semifinalist in Outstanding Wine Program, under wine director Arthur Hon.
Finalists will be announced in Charleston, S.C., on March 18, with the winners named at New York’s Lincoln Center on May 6. (Full disclosure: I am a voting member on the James Beard Awards committee.)
The rest of the semifinalists from around the country here, in PDF form.