Central Florida will once again go unrepresented on the final ballot for a James Beard Foundation Award. Despite having six chefs on the semifinals list — and the restaurant Victoria & Albert’s on the long list for an Outstanding Service award — none made it to the finals. Instead, the South region, which included Florida, will have a ballot that includes four chefs from New Orleans and one from Florida, Jeff McInnis of Yardbird Southern Table & Bar in Miami Beach.
The other finalists are: Justin Devillier, La Petite Grocery, New Orleans; Tory McPhail, Commander’s Palace, New Orleans; Alon Shaya, Domenica, New Orleans; and Sue Zemanick, Gautreau’s, New Orleans.
Local chefs who were named to the semifinal ballot were: Kathleen Blake of the Rusty Spoon; Brandon McGlamery, Luma on Park; Scott Hunnel, Victoria & Albert’s; Hari Pulapaka, Cress; and James and Julie Petrakis, The Ravenous Pig, who were nominated as a team for a second consecutive year. Hunnel has been on the long list for seven years.
No chef from Central Florida has yet to make it to the finals.
Judges for the awards include journalists and food professionals from around the country (I am one) who vote for chefs whose food they have eaten and for restaurants that they have dined in. There is no panel of judges that visits the restaurants specifically for the awards — it is largely a contest of numbers and popularity rather than of actual merit, at least as far as the Central Florida chefs are concerned. In other words, if more of the judges would visit Central Florida and dine in our better restaurants, more of our chefs would get the recognition they deserve.
The James Beard Awards will be announced in a black tie ceremony at New York’s Avery Fisher Hall on May 6. Here is a link to the complete list of finalist for the 2013 James Beard Awards.