On Monday, the James Beard Foundation announced this year's finalists for its annual culinary awards, commonly referred to as the Academy Awards of food. None of Tampa's semifinalists made the cut.
Chad Johnson of SideBern's and Greg Baker of The Refinery were semifinalists in the Best Chef, South category and Richard Gonzmart of the Columbia was a semifinalist in the Outstanding Restaurateur category.
In the Best Chef, South category, New Orleans dominated with four of five finalists hailing from restaurants in the Big Easy: Justin Devillier, John Harris, Tory McPhail and Alon Shaya. New Orleans had an impressive showing last year, too, with Cochon chef Stephen Stryjewski named the 2011 category winner. Birmingham's Chris Hastings was the fifth finalist this year.
In the Outstanding Restaurateur category, finalists were more spread out: Bruce Bromberg and Eric Bromberg (New York), Tom Douglas (Seattle), Piero Selvaggio (Los Angeles and Las Vegas), Caroline Styne (Los Angeles) and Phil Suarez (New York and elsewhere).
Finalists were announced via an ongoing Twitter feed, with chefs and foodies nationwide retweeting and offering their electronic congratulations and condolences.
"The James Beard Foundation is a very prestigious organization. If they have decided that these are the best chefs in the South, then they are. I'll just have to try harder next year," said Refinery chef and co-owner Greg Baker.
For a list of finalists, go to jamesbeard.org. The winners will be announced at a black-tie gala at Avery Fisher Hall in New York on May 7.
Laura Reiley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293.