Lots of familiar New Orleans chefs, restaurants make semifinalist list for James Beard Awards _lowres

Advocate photo by J.T. BLATTY-- Shaya, the modern Israeli restaurant from the Besh Restaurant Group, is a nominee for best new restaurant from the James Beard Foundation this year.

The semifinalists for this year’s James Beard Foundation awards are out, and once again New Orleans is well represented in the running for these coveted honors in dining and hospitality.

In fact, this year’s roundup of local nominees is strikingly similar to last year’s semifinalist class, with many familiar names from the New Orleans restaurant world again up for the same awards. The list will be narrowed to finalists next month, and the awards will be dished out May 2 at a gala in Chicago.

As the group previously announced, Leah Chase will be presented with its Lifetime Achievement Award at the gala.

See the complete national list of semifinalists here.

New Orleans contenders by category are:

Best New Restaurant

Shaya, the modern Israeli restaurant from chef Alon Shaya and the Besh Restaurant Group, has been a magnet for honors since opening last year, and it has drawn another with this nomination for Best New Restaurant. Last year, Alon Shaya was the only New Orleans chef to bring home a James Beard Award, winning the regional award for Best Chef: South.

Outstanding Chef

For the third year in a row, Donald Link is in the running for the group’s Outstanding Chef award. The Louisiana native and his restaurant group have won numerous James Beard Awards in the past, and in 2014 his Pêche Seafood Grill won the national award for Best New Restaurant.

Best Chef: South

For the regional award of Best Chef: South, Justin Devillier of La Petite Grocery and Balise; Slade Rushing of Brennan’s Restaurant; Michael Stoltzfus of Coquette; and Isaac Toups of Toups’ Meatery each return for semifinalist consideration this year. They’re joined by a new nominee, Michael Gulotta, chef of MoPho and Tana.

Outstanding Pastry Chef

Kelly Fields, pastry chef for the Besh Restaurant Group and partner in its new Willa Jean café and bakery, is back this year as a nominee for Outstanding Pastry Chef.

Outstanding Restaurateur

For the third year, JoAnn Clevenger of Upperline Restaurant is up for Outstanding Restaurateur, an award the James Beard Foundation gives to “a working restaurateur who sets high national standards in restaurant operations and entrepreneurship.”

Outstanding Service

Brigtsen’s Restaurant was again nominated this year for the Outstanding Service award, along with returning nominee Restaurant August. The chefs of these restaurants, Frank Brigtsen and John Besh, are previous winners of a regional best chef James Beard Award, in 1998 and 2006 respectively.

Outstanding Bar Program

The Freret Street lounge Cure and Arnaud’s French 75, the bar at the landmark French Creole restaurant, were each nominated for Outstanding Bar Program. The French 75 was also a semifinalist last year, as was Cane & Table, which is run by the same group behind Cure.

Outstanding Wine Program

Commander’s Palace joins the line up this year for Outstanding Wine Program. The restaurant’s chef, Tory McPhail, won the Best South: South honor in 2013.

In releasing its list, the James Beard Foundation said its roster of semifinalists was derived from some 20,000 nominees submitted by the public during an open call last fall.

The final Restaurant and Chef Award nominations, along with this year’s nominations for the foundation’s food media awards, will be announced on March 15. Winners are revealed at a gala event, which this year will be held in Chicago on May 2.

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.