The James Beard Foundation will present its annual culinary awards Monday (May 6), and once again New Orleans has a full slate of contenders vying for these high-profile accolades.

Winners will be named during an awards ceremony in Chicago that begins at 6 p.m.

These awards are closely watched across the hospitality industry.

The James Beard Foundation said its roster of nominees was selected from thousands of chefs, restaurants and bars submitted by the public during an open call last fall.

This year’s roundup of local nominees is similar to last year’s early contenders, joined by a number of newcomers in different categories.

One local winner has already been announced. Brett Anderson of the Times Picayune and NOLA.com won the Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award, a new award named for the late, influential Los Angeles food writer. The group‘s media awards were announced in April.

Here are the local finalists by category:

Outstanding Chef

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Chef Donald Link, photographed at his bistro Herbsaint in New Orleans' Central Business District.

For the sixth year, 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.

Outstanding Restaurateur

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JoAnn Clevenger opened her New Orleans restaurant Upperline in 1983.

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

Outstanding Service

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Marna and Frank Brigtsen at their restaurant in New Orleans.

Brigtsen’s Restaurant returns again as contender for the Outstanding Service award. Chef Frank Brigtsen won the group's regional best chef award in 1998.

Outstanding Wine Service

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At Bacchanal, a popular Bywater spot for wine, food and music, visitors are increasingly seeking out wines beyond the most common varietals.

Bacchanal, the wine shop that morphed into a wine bar, wine garden and unique oenophile oasis in the Bywater, is again in the running alongside more traditional restaurants around the country.

Outstanding Pastry Chef

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Chef Kelly Fields runs her bakery and cafe Willa Jean in the Warehouse District.

Kelly Fields of Willa Jean café and bakery is back for the fifth year as a semifinalist for this national award.

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Coquette sous chef Ana Castro a nominee for the James Beard award for rising star chef.

Rising Star Chef

Ana Castro of Coquette is a semifinalist for this national award recognizing chefs under age 30. Coquette is up for another chef award this year (see below).

Best Chef: South

New Orleans has three of the five nominees for this regional award.

Slade Rushing of Brennan’s Restaurant

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Chef Slade Rushing finishes a dish at Brennan's New Orleans.

Michael Stoltzfus and Kristen Essig, the co-chefs of Coquette

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Chefs Kristen Essig, bottom left, and Michael Stoltzfus, front, pose with their team at Coquette in New Orleans. 

Isaac Toups of Toups’ Meatery and Toups South

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Isaac Toups holds his daughter Ivy at his Toups South restaurant in New Orleans. "Chasing the Gator: Isaac Toups and the New Cajun Cooking" was co-authored by Jennifer V. Cole.

Other nominees this year are Vishwesh Bhatt of Snackbar in Oxford, Miss., and Jose Enrique of his namesake restaurant in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

New Orleans chef Nina Compton won this award in 2018 for her first restaurant Compère Lapin.


Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.