One Lafayette chef and seven New Orleans chefs are on the James Beard Foundation’s list of semifinalist nominees for its 2014 Restaurant and Chef Awards.

Donald Link, of Herbsaint in New Orleans, is a semifinalist in the Outstanding Chef category. Those nominated in the Best Chef, South, category include Justin Girouard, of The French Press, Lafayette, and six New Orleans chefs: Justin Devillier, La Petite Grocery; Ryan Prewitt, Pêche Seafood Grill; Alon Shaya, Domenica; Michael Stoltzfus, Coquette; Isaac Toups, Toups’ Meatery; and Sue Zemanick, Gautreau’s.

Other semifinalists, all from New Orleans, and their categories include: Pêche, Best New Restaurant; Arnaud’s French 75 Bar and Cure, both in Outstanding Bar Program; JoAnn Clevenger, of Upperline, Outstanding Restaurateur; Ann Tuennerman with Tales of the Cocktail, Outstanding Wine, Spirits, Beer Professional; Brigtsen’s, Outstanding Service; and The Grill Room of Windsor Court Hotel, Outstanding Wine Program.

The finalists in the Restaurant and Chef Awards, as well as nominations for the Beard Foundation’s Book, Journalism, Broadcast and Restaurant Design Awards, will be announced in Chicago on March 18. The 2014 James Beard Awards will be held May 2 and May 5 in New York City.

Savory king cakes

Carnival season typically brings an abundance of king cakes, mostly featuring a sweet filling and an icing or sugar topping in the traditional purple, gold and green colors of Mardi Gras. But, Bosco’s Italian Cafe, 2040 Highway 59, Mandeville, and Tony Bosco’s at 141 Terra Bella Blvd., Covington, are offering a savory king cake.

The Louisiana Crawfish King Cake is the creation of one of Bosco’s chefs, Eileen Bevis-Bennett. A sixth-generation New Orleanian, she has served this dish to family and friends for 15 years.

Designed to trick the eye, the king cake is made with puff pastry and baked, just like its inspiration, in the shape of a ring. It is filled with a creamy blend of Louisiana crawfish tails, pepper Jack cheese, spices and herbs. Parmesan cheese replaces the sugar in the symbolic Mardi Gras colors and sour cream is used as “icing.” The king cake is served hot so there’s no plastic baby in it.

The crawfish king cake is available in two sizes; the small ($11.95) serves 1-4 while the large ($39.95) serves 10-14. Call (985) 624-5066 to place a pick-up order.

Louisiana oysters

Speaking of Louisiana seafood, Louisiana chefs dished up flavorful oyster delicacies on Capitol Hill during the Washington Mardi Gras.

The Gulf Oyster Industry Council led the shellfish industry’s 20th annual “Walk on the Hill” to promote the Gulf oyster community through a series of special events scheduled to take place in connection with the Washington Mardi Gras festivities sponsored by the Mystic Krewe of Louisianians on Feb. 17-21.

Among those restaurants preparing oyster dishes were Randol’s Seafood Restaurant, Lafayette; Ruffino’s, Baton Rouge and Lafayette; Acme Oyster House, New Orleans; Drago’s Seafood Restaurant in Metairie and New Orleans; and Restaurant Cotton, Monroe.

Mardi Gras drinks

Chef Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants across the country are offering Mardi Gras cocktail recipes —from a Mambo Punch to a Cajun Storm and King’s Cup — and are sharing the recipes.

The Cajun Storm is made with spiced rum and passion fruit. The refreshing and fruity King’s Cup, perfect for toasting Mardi Gras royalty, features a colored sanding sugar for the rim of the glass. Make your own sanding sugar by stirring in a drop or two of food coloring. Both cocktails are available at Emeril’s Delmonico in New Orleans.

The “Mardi Gras Mambo” is a classic Mardi Gras anthem played on local radio stations during the Carnival season. The Mambo Punch, made with pineapple-flavored vodka and flowery St. Germain liqueur, is served at NOLA Restaurant, also in New Orleans.