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No James Beard Award semifinalists from Tampa Bay this year — again

The award nominees were announced for the first time in two years.
Panca chili chimichurri with grilled octopus from Mise en Place in downtown Tampa.
Panca chili chimichurri with grilled octopus from Mise en Place in downtown Tampa. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]
Published Feb. 23

For the first time since 2020, semifinalists for the James Beard awards were announced today. The awards honoring the late chef who revolutionized American cooking are among the most prestigious culinary acknowledgments in the country.

And once again, no chefs or restaurants from the Tampa Bay area made the list.

The James Beard Foundation’s annual awards were canceled in 2020 and 2021, as the group sought to overhaul some of its practices amid allegations of misbehavior against some of its nominated chefs and the realization that “no Black people had won in any of the 23 categories on the ballot,” according to the New York Times. Semifinalists were announced in 2020, but the awards ceremony was canceled and winners were not declared.

Related: Chef James Beard's life revealed in this St. Petersburg play

This year, dozens of nominees were announced across categories including Outstanding Restaurateur, Outstanding Chef and Best New Restaurant. Contenders from the Miami area and four from Orlando made the semifinalist cut, but none from the Tampa Bay area.

In 2019, two female chefs from the Tampa Bay area were nominated, including Jeannie Pierola, who has been nominated in the Best Chef: South category multiple times. Tampa’s Bern’s Steak House has been a frequent nominee in the Outstanding Wine Program category and won the award in 2016. Local chefs including Greg Baker, Chris Ponte and Ferrell Alvarez have received semifinalist nods in the past.

But the Tampa Bay restaurant scene has not been represented on even the semifinalist list the way places like Orlando and Miami have, despite tremendous growth in the past decade. No local chefs or restaurants made the cut for the 2020 list.

This year’s James Beard Award winners will be awarded June 13 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

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