When the James Beard Foundation announced the semifinalists for its 2015 Restaurant and Chef Awards on Wednesday, the list included a number of New Orleans and Louisiana restaurant professionals who are no strangers to the attentions of the New York-based culinary organization.
Donald Link is in the running for the group’s Outstanding Chef award, for which he was also nominated last year. The Louisiana native and his restaurant group have won numerous James Beard Awards in the past, and in 2014, his Pêche Seafood Grill took home the national award for Best New Restaurant.
Other locals named as semifinalists for national awards include JoAnn Clevenger of Upperline Restaurant for Outstanding Restaurateur, an award for which she too was nominated last year, and Kelly Fields, executive pastry chef for the Besh Restaurant Group, for Outstanding Pastry Chef.
Brigtsen’s Restaurant was again nominated this year for the Outstanding Service award, as was 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.
Cane & Table, the French Quarter restaurant from the company behind the lounges Cure and Bellocq, and Arnaud’s French 75, the bar at the landmark French Creole restaurant, were each nominated for the Outstanding Bar Program award.
For this year’s regional Best Chef: South category, Louisiana has a slate of contenders that is very similar to last year’s semifinalist list.
Justin Devillier of La Petite Grocery and the newly opened Balise; Alon Shaya of Domenica, Pizza Domenica and the new Shaya; Michael Stoltzfus of Coquette; Isaac Toups of Toups’ Meatery; and Justin Girouard of the French Press in Lafayette each return for semifinalist consideration this year. They’re joined by Slade Rushing, chef of the new Brennan’s Restaurant on Royal Street.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the James Beard Awards, which are widely viewed as the top awards for the American restaurant industry. The roster of semifinalists was culled by the foundation’s awards committee from a list of some 35,000 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 24. Winners are revealed at a gala event, which this year will be held in Chicago on May 4.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.