Semi-finalists for the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards dropped yesterday, and it was another strong showing for Philly. 17 chefs, restaurants, bakers, and more are up for awards, compared to 16 last year (that includes nominees from nearby suburbs, too).
Philadelphia had no nominees for Best New Restaurant last year, but one for 2017 — East Passyunk Malaysian spot Saté Kampar. There were also improved showings for Outstanding Restaurateur, where regular nominee Stephen Starr (also the only nominee last year for Philly) was joined by Ellen Yin of High Street Hospitality Group, behind Fork, High Street on Market, and others).
The city is also home to more up-and-coming young guns, with two Rising Star Chef of the Year nominees: Zahav’s Camille Cogswell, and Jesse Ito for his bold work at Japanese pub Royal Izakaya.
There was also a better showing on the booze front, where Herman C. Mihalich and John S. Cooper from Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey in nearby Bristol are up for the Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional award — Philly had no representation in that category in 2016.
The Weaker Categories
There weren’t more nominees for the city in every category — for Outstanding Chef, there’s just one Philadelphian, Michael Solomonov (for his work at Zahav), down from two last year, one of which was Solomonov. Philly was also a little weaker in the regional chef category, Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic, with five noms in place of last year’s six — Nicholas Elmi (Laurel), Rich Landau (Vedge), Cristina Martinez and Benjamin Miller (South Philly Barbacoa), Greg Vernick (Vernick Food & Drink), and Joey Baldino (Zeppoli, in Collingwood)
On the alcohol front, Philadelphia was a little worse off for award-nominated bar programs with only Martha up as a semi-finalist, in place of The Olde Bar and Tired Hands Fermentaria in 2016.
Philly did just as well as 2016 in all remaining categories. Collingswood’s sushi restaurant Sagami is up for Outstanding Restaurant, and Michael Solomonov’s Zahav for Outstanding Service. The city is also doing fine with categories centered on ovens, with one nominee for Outstanding Pastry Chef — Pat O’Malley of Hungry Pigeon, and another one for Outstanding Baker: Tova du Plessis from Jewish bakery Essen. Philly continues to be dismissed as a city for award-winning wine lists or sommeliers, with no nominations for Outstanding Wine Program, just like in 2016.
There are a few more outstanding folk up for awards in Philly-adjacent areas, mostly in Delaware. Rehoboth Beach’s Chespeake & Maine is up for Outstanding Bar Program, and nearby in Milton, beer magnate Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery is a possible winner for Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional. In Wilmington, Dwain Kalup of the classy Domaine Hudson is up for the Mid-Atlantic Best Chef prize, and finally, from Enfin Farms in Cape May, N.J., Elizabeth Degener is a semi-finalist for Outstanding Baker.
This list will be culled down in mid-March, when the James Beard Foundation announces the finalists — but the winners won’t be known until April 26.