Tampa Bay area chefs, restaurants and culinary professionals were shut out again when the James Beard Foundation announced its "Academy Awards of food" finalists in a live-streamed event on Tuesday in Chicago, a city that has boasted 39 James Beard award winners.
Greg Baker, below, of Tampa's Refinery and Chad Johnson of Tampa's SideBern's, each with a "Best Chef: South" category semifinalist nomination this year, were denied finalist status when New Orleans swept four out of five spots in the category. Joey Redner of Tampa's Cigar City Brewing, who had received a semifinalist nomination for Outstanding Wine, Spirits or Beer Professional, was overlooked in favor of breweries Dogfish Head of Delaware and Brooklyn Brewery in New York. And Bern's Steak House, which received a semifinalist nomination for Outstanding Restaurant, was overlooked in that category this year as a finalist.
The only time Tampa had a James Beard winner was 1992, the second year the awards were given. Bern's Steak House sommelier Derrick Pagan won for wine service. Still, four semifinalists this year signaled a growing focus on the talents of Tampa Bay area chefs and restaurants. Last year Baker also picked up a Best Chef: South category semifinalist nomination. In 2012 there were nominations for Baker and Johnson in that category, as well as for Richard Gonzmart of the Columbia Restaurant in the Restaurateur category. The Refinery received a nomination in 2011 for Best New Restaurant in the United States (it opened in 2010).
Florida, which had semi-finalists in other cities, didn't have any finalists at all, with even Miami being shut out.
The start of Tuesday's announcements was held up for the arrival of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, who began with a speech about the restaurant industry and the legacy of Chicago chef Charlie Trotter, who died unexpectedly last year, describing him as an industry titan who contributed to making "the culinary arts truly a part of the arts."
Attendees waited through a long list of finalists in the Book, Journalism, Broadcast and Restaurant Design Awards categories before the much-anticipated Restaurant and Chef Awards finalists were announced. Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony May 2 and 5 in New York's Lincoln Center.
For a list of finalists, go to jamesbeard.org.