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These two Tampa Bay chefs are 2019 James Beard Award semifinalists

One is a veteran who's been nominated before; one is a first-time Beard nominee.
Chef Jeannie Pierola prepares a sample during a Sparkman Wharf preview event in 2018.
Chef Jeannie Pierola prepares a sample during a Sparkman Wharf preview event in 2018.
Published Feb. 27, 2019

Two female chefs represent Tampa Bay in this year's James Beard Award semifinalist nominations.

Jeannie Pierola, a celebrated veteran of Tampa's food scene, and Rachel Bennett, a 30-year-old chef based in St. Petersburg, scored nominations when the semifinalists were announced today.

Pierola, who runs lauded Tampa restaurant Edison: Food+Drink Lab, recently opened Swigamajig at Sparkman Wharf and will debut Counter Culture this year, is nominated in the Best Chef: South category. She has been nominated in this category multiple times before.

Bennett, the chef at the Library at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, has been nominated in the Rising Star Chef of the Year category. The award is described as: "A chef age 30 or younger who displays exceptional talent, character, and leadership ability, and who is likely to make a significant impact in years to come." The Library (originally called the Peabody), opened Sept. 21 with Bennett at the helm, the work of Allison Casper Adams and Blake Casper, who also own Oxford Exchange in Tampa.

More: Rachel Bennett on female chefs in Tampa Bay's food industry.

The James Beard Awards, often referred to as the Oscars of the food world, announced their restaurant and chef semifinalists Feb. 27. Final nominees are announced March 27; the awards will be given out May 6 at a ceremony Chicago.