Saturday, April 21, 2018
Restaurants

2016 James Beard semifinalist nods go to chef Greg Baker, Bern's Steak House in Tampa

Greg Baker, chef and co-owner of Tampa's Refinery and Fodder & Shine, seemed hardly to break stride Wednesday when he learned he had once again been named a semifinalist in this year's James Beard awards.

Putting finishing touches on some menu changes, followed by a finance meeting, it scarcely seemed like the day plan of someone just nominated to what is widely thought of as the Academy Awards of food.

But then, it's his fifth nod in the Best Chef, South category, an honor preceded by a semifinalist designation for the Refinery in 2011 for Best New Restaurant.

Joining Baker this year is a semifinalist nomination for Bern's Steak House for Best Wine Program, an honor for which the fabled Tampa restaurant made it to the finalist round in 2015. Bern's has also been named semifinalist for Outstanding Restaurant in past years and is the only restaurant in our area ever to win a James Beard award, in 1992 when Bern's Steak House sommelier Derrick Pagan won for wine service.

Of the nomination, Bern's Steak House owner David Laxer said, "It is truly an honor to be nominated as a semifinalist for the second year. … Our sommeliers work tirelessly to maintain the integrity of our program and our list, which dates back 60 years. Congratulations to all the semifinalists, including our friend Greg Baker of the Refinery."

Technically, the Tampa Bay area had a third nominee this round, with restaurateur Michael Mina, co-owner of St. Petersburg's Locale Market and FarmTable Kitchen, picking up yet another accolade in the Outstanding Restaurateur category, largely on the strength of his numerous California restaurants.

Florida had an especially weak showing this year, with Alter in Miami picking up a nod for Best New Restaurant and its chef, Bradley Kilgore, receiving a nod for Rising Star Chef. Antonio Bachour of the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort in Bal Harbour was among the semifinalists in the Outstanding Pastry Chef category. Florida was shut out entirely in categories from Outstanding Bar Program to Outstanding Service.

The state's other contenders for Best Chef, South included Kathleen Blake of the Rusty Spoon in Orlando, perennial favorite Scott Hunnel of Victoria & Albert's at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort, Deme Lomas of Niu Kitchen in Miami, José Mendín of Pubbelly in Miami Beach, James and Julie Petrakis of the Ravenous Pig in Winter Park, Michael Pirolo of Macchialina in Miami Beach and Giorgio Rapicavoli of Eating House in Coral Gables.

Once again, the restaurants of New Orleans dominated the category. Baker has no conspiracy theory, but maybe a geography theory.

"I don't think we're being snubbed geographically," he said. "It's a matter of whose food the judges have eaten. The judges definitely don't get to Tampa, and it's a strike against us."

For him personally, it has been an honor each year to have been included among such eminent chefs, and the nominations translate to a bump in his bottom line ("but none has been as big as the first year, when we went from no one knowing us to being fully booked").

But if he were to have won, he was hoping for it to have been last year. Baker's father died in January, so if he takes home the gold this year on May 2 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, his father won't be there to see him don a medal at the podium. Baker will have to settle for the congratulations of friends and industry colleagues.

"Twitter and text are blowing up," Baker said Wednesday afternoon. "I've had about 15 tweets since we've been on the phone."

A complete list of 2016 semi-finalist nominees can be found at jamesbeard.org.

Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.

Comments
Tampa’s 60-year-old Housewife Bake Shop may not be closing after all

Tampa’s 60-year-old Housewife Bake Shop may not be closing after all

For nearly 60 years it was breads, cakes and pastries, up before dawn for the Perrone family in Armenia Garden Estates. For a minute it looked like Tampa’s Housewife Bake Shop was going to close, but third-generation owner Tena Perrone said on Wednes...
Published: 04/19/18
Four new restaurants in Tampa Bay: Brazilian steakhouse, Chinese, juice bar and more

Four new restaurants in Tampa Bay: Brazilian steakhouse, Chinese, juice bar and more

TERRA GAUCHATerra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse, a classic churrascaria-style Brazilian meatery — you know, where the guys in South American cowboy attire walk around with the swords of meat until you capitulate in a carnivorous haze — has opened a loc...
Published: 04/18/18
Food events this weekend: Blueberry Festival, Whiskey Obsession, Taste of Carrollwood and more

Food events this weekend: Blueberry Festival, Whiskey Obsession, Taste of Carrollwood and more

WORTH THE DRIVE: Ocala Culinary FestivalThe Ocala Culinary Festival runs through Sunday with dozens of food and educational events throughout Ocala and Marion County. The list is impressive, tickets for events priced individually. Here is a sampler: ...
Published: 04/12/18
Tampa restaurant Steelbach’s Florida-raised beef program could be a model for true farm-to-table dining

Tampa restaurant Steelbach’s Florida-raised beef program could be a model for true farm-to-table dining

TAMPATrust me, this will be a restaurant review. In a couple of minutes. First, we need to dive into something the new Steelbach at Armature Works is doing that is ground-breaking, disruptive, way-outside-the-box. It’s so forward-thinking that Commis...
Published: 04/09/18
Updated: 04/12/18
10 questions with Molly Schuyler, the competitive eater who won $2,500 for eating a big Taco Bus burrito

10 questions with Molly Schuyler, the competitive eater who won $2,500 for eating a big Taco Bus burrito

When it comes to competitive eating, Molly Schuyler is one of the best in the world. Last weekend she dominated her competition at Tampa’s Taco Bus Burrito Eating Championship by taking down a 2.5-pound "El Jefe" in just over a minute to win $...
Published: 04/10/18
Caddy’s At the Pointe apologizes for putting diner’s race on their receipt

Caddy’s At the Pointe apologizes for putting diner’s race on their receipt

A Bradenton restaurant has publicly apologized for a server who described a table by including the diners’ race. A photograph of a Caddy’s At the Pointe receipt posted to Facebook shows the table was entered into the restaurant’s p...
Published: 04/09/18
Updated: 04/10/18
Maple Street Biscuits now open, bringing much-needed biscuits to St. Pete

Maple Street Biscuits now open, bringing much-needed biscuits to St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG — I was prepared. I’d been to the Maple Street Biscuit location in Tallahassee in our circuitous escape from Hurricane Irma. The woman behind the counter was going to ask me my favorite childhood television show so it could...
Updated one month ago
This weekend’s food festivals: Celebrate wine, craft soda, shrimp and crawfish

This weekend’s food festivals: Celebrate wine, craft soda, shrimp and crawfish

CHEERS: TO DALÍRaise a glass or two to welcome spring as the Dalí hosts its seventh annual signature wine and food tasting, Los Vinos de Dalí, on Sunday from 3-7 p.m. Both Old World and New World wines are paired with tapas tastings from area restaur...
Updated one month ago
Florida chef Jeanie Roland talks competing on ‘Iron Chef Gauntlet’ and the time she beat Bobby Flay

Florida chef Jeanie Roland talks competing on ‘Iron Chef Gauntlet’ and the time she beat Bobby Flay

In August 2015, Punta Gorda chef Jeanie Roland beat world-famous Bobby Flay with her signature moules-frites (that’s mussels and fries). Let’s say Flay got filleted by a petite, now 51-year-old chef in a fairly sleepy waterside Florida town not known...
Updated one month ago
Free Little Caesars for lunch today for all of America, thanks to UMBC’s NCAA upset

Free Little Caesars for lunch today for all of America, thanks to UMBC’s NCAA upset

TAMPA — Who doesn’t love free food? Who doesn’t love pizza? Well, thanks to Little Caesars and some March Madness, everybody in the country can get free pizza today. Before the NCAA men’s basketball tournament started, Little...
Updated one month ago