James Beard nominations skip Tampa Bay restaurants, again

Orlando and cities in southeast Florida, however, got several nominations.
The dining area of Rocca Italian restaurant in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, December 12, 2019.
The dining area of Rocca Italian restaurant in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, December 12, 2019. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]
Published Jan. 26

The James Beard Awards semifinalists for 2023 were announced Wednesday morning, but for Tampa Bay restaurants, there wasn’t much to celebrate. Once again, not a single restaurant owner or chef received a nod from the prestigious culinary organization.

The last time Tampa Bay received recognition on the list was in 2019 (the awards were canceled in 2020 and 2021, as the group sought to overhaul some of its practices). That year, two female chefs represented Tampa Bay in the semifinalist nominations: Jeannie Pierola, a celebrated veteran of Tampa’s food scene, and Rachel Bennett, a young chef based in St. Petersburg at the time.

We know, of course, that our restaurants and chefs can hold their own, but it’s disappointing to see them left out, yet again. Remember last year’s Michelin reveal? No Tampa Bay restaurants received the organization’s coveted stars (though Rooster & The Till, Ichicoro Ramen and Rocca did get “Bib Gourmand” awards).

The snub is more noticeable when you consider that Orlando and cities in southeast Florida make up 16 of this year’s Beard semifinalists, in a variety of categories like Outstanding Restaurateur, Outstanding Bakery and Best Chef: South.

One tiny silver lining: Jimmy and Johnny Tung, of Orlando’s Bento Asian Kitchen + Sushi, Doshi and Camille, received a nomination for the Outstanding Restaurateur category. And guess what? They’re set to open a new high-end Japanese restaurant in Tampa Heights this year, maybe even before the Beard awards are announced on June 5. Now that would be something.