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Awards from the James Beard Foundation are widely considered a top honor in the American restaurant and food realm.

A collection of high profile New Orleans culinary names and some rising talent will continue in the running for this year's James Beard Foundation awards.

The James Beard Foundation today announced the finalists for this year's awards, drawn from the much larger initial list of semifinalists released in February. Winners will be named during an awards ceremony on May 7 in Chicago.

The James Beard Foundation said its roster of nominees was selected from some 20,000 chefs, restaurants and bars submitted by the public during an open call last fall. See the complete list of national finalists here


Here are the local finalists by category:

Outstanding Restaurateur

For the fifth 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 Chef

Also for the fifth 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 Pastry Chef

Kelly Fields, pastry chef and partner in Willa Jean café and bakery, is back for the second year as a finalist for this national award. 

Outstanding Wine Service

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

Outstanding Bar Program

The Freret Street lounge Cure gets its third consecutive nomination for this national award.  

Best Chef: South

New Orleans had seven semifinalists for this regional award. Those advancing as finalists are:

The other finalists for this regional award are Vishwesh Bhatt of Snackbar in Oxford, Mississippi (a restaurant from New Orleans native John Currence); Jose Enrique of Jose Enrique restaurant in San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Brad Kilgore of Alter in Miami.

Media awards, America's Classics, Who's Who inductees

This year's media and book award finalists were also announced today, and include a New Orleans nod. Brett Anderson is up for the investigative reporting award for his story on sexual harassment allegations at John Besh's restaurant company.  

New Orleans has a pair of new inductees in the James Beard Foundation's list of Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America. The honor this year is shared by Lally Brennan and Ti Adelaide Martin, the cousins who together run Commander's Palace. Restaurant founders Ella Brennan and the late Dick Brennan were similarly inducted in the industry list earlier.  

The James Beard Foundation has already announced the 2018 recipients of its America’s Classics awards, and a New Orleans name made the list again this year.

Dong Phuong, the Vietnamese restaurant and bakery in New Orleans East, will be honored at the May 7 gala along with four other restaurants around the country.

Separate from its chef and restaurant awards, and announced well in advance, the America’s Classic Award is intended to recognize establishments of “timeless appeal” that serve food “that reflects the character of their communities,” according to the foundation. Hansen’s Sno-Bliz, Mosca’s and Willie Mae’s Scotch House are other New Orleans businesses to win the America’s Classics award in past years.

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.