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South Florida is aglow in the culinary limelight again, and the latest proof are the nine local chefs nominated as semifinalists for 2022 James Beard Foundation Awards.
The prestigious foundation honors the top chefs, bakers and tastemakers in the country. The Feb. 23 announcement marks the first list of James Beard nominees in two years, coming together after an extensive 2021 audit to root out bias and feature more racial and gender diversity among the finalists.
In Palm Beach Clay Conley, a past nominee and arguably the county’s most decorated chef, has been named a semifinalist in the Best Chef of the Southeastern U.S. category. Conley is nominated again for Buccan, his upscale, American small-plates café in Palm Beach.
The rest of the James Beach semifinalists – no surprise – come from Miami. They include chef Jeremy Ford, a former “Top Chef” star and tattooed talent nominated for his Miami Beach spot Stubborn Seed (also Best Chef of the Southeastern U.S.). In January, Ford opened his latest restaurant Butcher’s Club, a luxury steakhouse at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens.
The 2022 James Beard finalists will be announced on March 16, and winners will be feted at a ceremony in Chicago on June 13. Best Chef: South is a regional award, and the rest are national James Beard semifinalists.
Zitz Sum, the Japanese and Chinese street food restaurant from owners Natalia Restrepo and chef Pablo Zitzmann, began its life as a pandemic pop-up and is now a Coral Gables eatery.
Café La Trova, the popular Cuban cocktail den on Miami’s Calle Ocho from James Beard-winning chef Michelle Bernstein, is nominated as a semifinalist.
Zak Stern, the man who sparked an artisanal bread revolution in Miami, has been nominated again for Zak the Baker in Wynwood. Short of schlepping to Miami, you can find Stern’s fresh loaves in the bakery section of your local Whole Foods Market.
Antonio Bachour has earned a nod for his inventive, namesake pastry shop Bachour in Coral Gables and Doral, which has already gotten the chef acclaim for his mirror-glazed pastries and glistening bon bons.
James Beard-winning Michael Schwartz again earns accolades for Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink, his warm neighborhood eatery in Miami’s Design District.
Along with Conley and Ford, other nominees on the long list include Michael Beltran for his restaurant Ariete.
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The triple threat of siblings Valerie and Nando Chang (who were previously named semifinalists) and their father, Fernando, earned recognition for their Peruvian-Japanese restaurant Itamae in the Design District.
Niven Patel has picked up a semifinalist nod for his Kendall eatery, Ghee Indian Kitchen.
Michael Pirolo is a nominee for his rustic Italian restaurant Macchialina in Miami Beach.