A mix of rising New Orleans culinary talent and more established local names will continue in the running for this year’s James Beard Foundation awards.
The foundation today announced the finalists for this year’s awards, drawn from the much larger initial list of semifinalists released last month. New Orleans had a dozen semifinalists, and now six (including two co-chefs from one restaurant) continue on. Chef and restaurant awards winners will be named during a gala event in Chicago on June 13.
These awards are closely watched across the hospitality industry and many New Orleans restaurants, chefs and even bars have taken home the honors in different categories year after year.
This year marks a return for the awards program, and some changes.
The awards were put on hold in 2020 and 2021. The foundation conducted an audit of its award program, focusing on diversity, equity and accessibility. The contenders announced for national and regional award categories shows a broader range of restaurant styles, price ranges and cuisines.
New Orleans finalists by category are:
Brennan’s Restaurant (417 Royal St., 504-525-9711), the revived French Creole classic, brought back from the brink of closure in 2014 by a different branch of the founding family.
Serigne Mbayefor Dakar NOLA (see exploretock.com/dakarnola), the pop-up and communal dinner series blending Senegalese and Creole cuisine.
Best Chef: South
This regional award covers Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Puerto Rico.
Blake Aguillard and Trey Smith, of Saint-Germain (3054 St. Claude Ave., 504-218-8729), the tasting menu bistro fused to an anytime wine bar in Bywater.
Melissa Martin, of Mosquito Supper Club (3824 Dryades St., 504-494-9777), serving a taste of bayou country home cooking in an Uptown cottage.
Isaac Tops, of Toups’ Meatery (845 N. Carrollton Ave., 504-252-4999) a perennial contender for this award for his robust take on Cajun roots cooking.
The other finalists in the Best Chef: South category are Adam Evans of Automatic Seafood and Oysters, Birmingham, Alabama, and Timothy Hontzas of Johnny’s Restaurant in Homewood, Alabama.
After a hiatus in 2020 and 2021, the awards program from the James Beard Foundation is back and has announced this year’s semifinalists. As us…